Iain Duncan Smith backs Kent’s apprenticeship scheme

KCC leader Paul Carter and work and pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith MP KCC leader Paul Carter and work and pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith MP

By Marijke Cox, Reporter Tuesday, May 29, 2012
3:54 PM

New “aggressive” marketing campaign launched at County Hall to push more businesses into hiring apprentices

Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has made a special visit to Kent to hear about an apprenticeship campaign aimed at tackling the staggering youth unemployment problem.

The Tory frontbencher praised the countywide scheme, Kent jobs for Kent young people, which looks to drive down jobless figures, which in April stood at 8,990 for the 18-24 age group.

The county council-led campaign targets businesses and organisations to push them to hire an apprentice – costing the employer as little as £52 a week – to give unemployed young people the chance to learn and earn.

Mr Duncan Smith called it an “excellent innovation”.

“It is binding together a lot of what we are doing nationally with some extra things that KCC is able to pay for and initiate – bringing the businesses together and informing them about the apprenticeship programmes we have got and what the subsidies are,” he said.

“This is about information, this is about organising and galvanising young people and getting them ready for work.”

The scheme has already created 100 apprenticeships in just one month, adding to the county’s existing 5,000-strong force.

But KCC’s leader Cllr Paul Carter said the new, “aggressive” marketing campaign was pushing to get even more businesses and public services involved.

He explained the council had invested £2m to help local employers give young people a chance to work, and that they could be eligible to grants of £2,000 to take on an apprentice.

Combined with national funding, a company could receive as much as £4,275.

“This scheme has been running for eight or nine years, but what we’re doing now is launching a new aggressive marketing campaign,” said Cllr Carter.

“This is all about getting out to companies, simplifying the process and reducing costs to the businesses.

“We want to articulate the simple message that this will not only benefit young people, but it will benefit the employer.”

Cllr Carter said KCC was writing to all head teachers to promote the scheme.

He stressed the campaign would involve the public sector, including the police and fire service, to make sure they were involved.

“If they’re not, I’ll be asking them why,” he said.

Mr Duncan Smith met with apprentices in Maidstone who have been given the opportunity to get their foot on the career ladder.

He also met employers who have been able to expand their business while training up the next generation of workers.

Cllr Carter said: “Kent is on the same page as the coalition government in recognising the risks of a lost generation if we do not tackle youth unemployment.”

He said County Hall had made tackling youth unemployment one of its top priorities and wants to double the number of apprenticeships in Kent’s public and private sector to 10,000.

The recession has hit young people hardest with the numbers seeking employment doubling over a four-year period.

Cllr Carter added “We are really on the side of young people and parents.

“We have invested heavily in vocational education – getting thousands of 14 to 19 year olds equipped for the world of work.

“This new apprenticeship campaign builds on that by offering skills that employers are crying out for.”

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Paul Champion

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