National Apprenticeship Week

IT COULD BE YOU: Cllr Jim McMahon meets apprentice hopefuls Jake Wharton, Georgina Lloyd, Zohaib Mohammed, Katie Barlow with Rohema Khan

This week is the National Apprenticeship Week, its not the only week when work is done to create and support apprenticeships – far from it – but it does give a reason for greater focus and an opportunity to celebrate success.

I started my working life in 1996 as a trolley pusher at a cash and carry for around £1.50 an hour. It wasn’t until my mother noticed an advert for an apprenticeship at North Manchester General Hospital that I felt I had a ‘proper job’ and one where my employer invested in me. It was actually a modest pay decrease at £40 a week but it was a fantastic opportunity.

During my time I worked at the Medical Library and a group of staff took me under their wing. They taught me the basics of the job but more importantly than that they supported me to be a rounded human being, gave me confidence and made me feel part of a team. I owe that team a debt of gratitude which will stay with me forever.

It was the same team who supported me when a trainee placement came up at the University of Manchester – at a real salary too. I stayed at the University (latterly UMIST) as a technician for many years until I got the bug for community work and went to work for another local authority.

The job at Manchester University was a real career, it invested in young people and supported them through training, college and through to promotion in the organisation.

Having started my working life as an apprentice I am keen to make sure that the opportunity I had is made as widely available as possible.

As a council we are a large employer and before we go out and promote apprenticeships to other businesses and organisations we need to lead by example.  We currently have 51 apprentices in the council and this week will seek to recruit a further 5. Over the coming months a further 10 will be advertised.

As part of our work in Greater Manchester we are pushing apprenticeships heavily. We know youth unemployment is a problem and just providing part time temporary employment will be no more than a short term fix. We need to provide real opportunities and apprenticeships offer just that.

As an employer the benefits are huge. I know when I joined North Manchester General Hospital it fired up the team, gave them a new ‘project’ and an opportunity to try new ideas out. Sometimes fresh thinking and new additions to a team can be the glue which binds other things together so well.

In Greater Manchester we are going even further by adding incentives to the national scheme. Currently employers can claim £1,500 per apprentice plus training costs. We are topping that up by £750 which provides a healthy £2,250 contribution towards the cost of taking on an additional member of staff.

In addition Oldham Council’s ‘Employability Team’ will work first hand with employers to guide them through the maze of recruiting an  apprentice.

I have successfully convinced my partner that an apprentice would be a good addition to her Coffee Shop so we have recent experience of trying to find out how to recruit an apprentice. In the current online system you can be presented with over 30 training providers to go through which is quite daunting. But with the council’s team you get support which includes a visit from a trained officer who can match you with a training provider who meets the needs of your business. They can also offer support on recruitment to find the right person. I know this is a real support for businesses who want to ‘do their bit’ but don’t want to be bogged down with paperwork or chasing around for information.

There has never been a better time to take on an apprentice – the benefits for you and the young person are huge and what’s more there is more support than ever before!

For more information go to:

To find out how to apply for an Oldham Council apprenticeship go to:

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