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A great start to working life
A "huge pain the backside" and a "vital investment in our future" are just two of the phrases used this week by North-East bosses to describe apprenticeships.
There is no doubt that taking on an apprentice represents a major commitment by an employer. Small firms regularly tell me that despite support offered by the government and the National Apprenticeship service they are reluctant to take on staff who can be relatively unproductive in the short term.
There are also concerns that some apprenticeship schemes offer substandard training. Last year's damning report from the all-party Business Select Committee inquiry said the Government's drive to get as many people on apprenticeships as possible had compromised on quality.
Furthermore, the Coalition's decision to replace the Train to Gain scheme of workplace training with adult apprenticeships had put an artificial gloss on the number of new starters and offered employers a loophole that let them overlook teenage applicants and recruit older trainees who represented a safer bet.
Despite those concerns apprenticeships are a fundamental part of a modern progressive economy and when delivered properly give young people a great start in life.
David Cameron said on Monday at the start of what has been designated National Apprenticeship Week it should become the new norm that school leavers chose either an apprenticeship or a course in higher education. The Prime Ministers comments came as a new study found that fewer than one in five parents believe apprenticeships have the same status as university education.
The survey of 400 working parents by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) also showed that almost half thought apprenticeships were more appropriate for manual or blue-collar jobs.
Only one in 10 parents said apprenticeships were the preferred qualification for their children.
A poll on Monday showed about one in five young people believe an apprenticeship will lead to a well-respected career. The YouGov survey of 1,000 people aged 16 to 25, carried out in February for tradesman recommendation website RatedPeople.com, found that 45 per cent of those questioned thought apprenticeships were "just a source of cheap labour for businesses."
Clearly, there is a way to go before apprenticeships have the same kudos as a university degree. But the North-East boasts some superbly-equipped training facilities and scores of forward-thinking employers who are investing time and money to nurture talent.
All this week in the Echo's business pages we are featuring stories that celebrate the achievements of apprentices, trainers and firms. Give us a call if you want to tell us about your experiences.
How's this for a bit of PR gobbledygook from a recent caller? He told me that a new business was: "Jumping on the zeitgeist of shabby chic but putting their own spin on it by using augmented reality." Can anyone supply a translation?
I was in Spain for a few days last week. The Easyjet plane due to take us back to the UK was late arriving at Murcia airport. When we eventually boarded there was an announcement from the captain to apologise for the delay. He explained that just before landing he'd struck a flock of seagulls. Anyone who attended a nightclub in the 80s will know how he felt.
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