A local enterprise group has been awarded £60,000 to help small firms take on an apprentice .Swarm started up last year to give advice to businesses and opportunities to young people looking for an alternative to further and higher education. I went along to meet some of the apprentices at an event for local businesses.
Swarm Director Robert Ashton says companies need to see "the risk of taking on an apprentice can be quite modest. Whereas the impact can be quite large."
So far 12 young people have been placed, with their training organised by Norwich City College. Now with the County Council as a partner, Swarm is looking to find 36 more opportunities with local businesses.
Richard Dix is the Technical Director at Rural Broadband. His business has two Swarm apprentices. "They are both doing well and we hope to take them on as full time staff. Their work is varied. One apprentice has just been to Glastonbury as we do wi-fi for events."
All the apprentices also take an Awards Level 3 Diploma in Enterprising Skills in a Business Environment to help when they look for another job.
Even though the economy is growing again, we remain in the midst of an apprenticeships crisis in Norwich. Over the last three years, the number of people starting apprenticeships in Norwich has fallen by 30%.
Creating apprenticeships and improving the prospects for the 'forgotten 50%’ of young people who don't go to University are already top priorities for a future Labour government.
We will devolve power and resources to Norwich and its employers for local skills training and careers guidance and I will push for better democratic accountability by giving trade unions a formal role too. Labour will also require any large employer doing business with the public sector to provide quality apprenticeships and will create at least 100 new University Technical Colleges across the country."
Swarm recommends all businesses pay their apprentices the minimum wage not the government's apprentice wage which is only £2.68 an hour.
The scheme has the support of Norfolk County Council, Norwich City College and the European Social Fund. The £60,000 grant was given by the Association of Employment and Learning Providers.
Swarm operates across the whole of Norfolk.