HAVE you ever noticed how many of our industry leaders are former apprentices? asks James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North-East Chamber of Commerce.

So many of our pioneering businesses are led by men and women who started their working lives on the shop floor with little skill and less experience, but were, and still are, bursting with enthusiasm.

Apprenticeships instil pride as well as equipping young people with the knowledge and experience required to carve out successful careers in their chosen field. The pride is often born from the familiarity the person feels with the business and its workforce, having worked their way through various levels and departments of the same firm.

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Our own President, Dave Laws, worked his way from apprentice at the fire station at Newcastle International Airport to the position of Chief Executive.

At NECC we pride ourselves for being able to marry keen young talent with companies eager to develop a proactive, energetic workforce.

The National Apprenticeship Service and the North East Chamber of Commerce are working with 29 sponsors to once again deliver this year’s Apprenticeship Challenge.

The Challenge is to encourage as many employers as possible to recruit as many apprentices as possible, over a 100 day period. We have been incredibly successful with this in recent years, and we need this year to be just as good, if not better.

We need our businesses to engage in the training agenda and encourage the firms that currently don’t take apprentices to consider what fresh, enthusiastic young people could bring to their business, sector and the North East business community generally.

We want our members to lead the way in establishing the future workforce, training the next generation of business leaders and eliminating the potential skills gaps that could hold back regional economic growth.

There are thousands of job-ready young people and a host of financial incentives for firms signing up apprentices. NECC’s job is to make the process as pleasurable as possible and ensure the right person finds the ideal business.

For many companies apprenticeships are a critical way of training young people and adults to fill specific roles within their organisations, helping both the individual and business develop together.

Hopefully the 2014 Apprenticeship Challenge will be the most successful yet and maybe a handful of the young people we match up with North east businesses will one day look back with great fondness, from a lofty position in their organisations, about their time serving an apprenticeship.