A hundred new apprentices across the Tees Valley have been created thanks to a £1m Emergency Apprenticeship Fund scheme launched by the Tees Valley mayor.
The fund was opened in June to ensure that young people aged 16 to 20 were not left behind as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
It has now closed after 100 companies created new apprentice roles in everything from GP surgeries and bioengineering to construction and railway and locomotive manufacturing.
To see first-hand the impact the funding has had on local businesses, Ben Houchen visited Darlington-based North Bay Railway Engineering Services to meet its new apprentice, 18-year-old Jack Laverick from Saltburn.
The firm specialises in new-build steam locomotives but also provides a wide range of general engineering services for heritage railways across the UK.
It was founded in 2013 before moving from Scarborough to Darlington in 2017 to place the company among the steam heritage sector.
Apprentice Jack said: “The scheme has enabled me to take up a position that I love and I thank Mayor Houchen for providing the funding to enable me take up the opportunity it has provided.”
Mayor Houchen said: “Supporting apprenticeships is a key part of my plan for jobs so I’m delighted that the Emergency Apprenticeship Fund has hit its target within just weeks of it being launched.
“This just goes to show that our businesses are eager to support apprenticeships and the next generation of workers across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool and, with the right assistance, they can.
“Apprenticeships are a fantastic way for our young people to get the vital experience they need on their path to a rewarding career, while making sure our job creators, innovators and entrepreneurs have the skills at their disposal to succeed. This is all the more important during these uncertain and difficult times.
“Although this fund has come to an end, our ongoing Apprenticeship Support Grant scheme for businesses is still up and running to help those who are still considering taking on a new apprentice.
“Through apprenticeships, the hugely successful Routes to Work scheme, TeesValleyCareers.com and now by helping small businesses access Government’s £2billion Kickstart fund, we’re giving everyone across the region – no matter their age – comprehensive help to start a rewarding career right here in the Tees Valley.”
North Bay Railway Engineering Services’ managing director David Humphreys said: “Without grant funding like this, as a small business we would not be in a position to fund an apprentice. However, the funding provided changes things and it becomes a viable option.
“As a team, we are very pleased with Jack and look forward to provide the hands-on training to set him up with the work skills needed for his welding and manufacturing career.”
The money is being used to fund a new apprentice’s full wages for the first six months, and half for the rest of the apprenticeship, up to two years.
It was developed to help spur businesses on to create more roles following the dramatic decline in apprenticeship creation due to coronavirus.
A recent survey carried out for the Combined Authority revealed 69% of responding businesses said that they had furloughed apprentices, with 35% adding they could no longer commit to employing an apprentice.
For more information on the Apprenticeship Support Grant, visit teesvalley-ca.gov.uk/apprenticeships or to register your interest to seek Kickstart funding from Government, visit TeesValleyBusiness.co.uk/kickstart-tees-valley.