The West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) have invested over £6.5m to support new apprenticeships.
The money was invested in the LEP Apprenticeship Grant for Employers (AGE) programme, supporting 2,633 16 to 18-year-olds and 1,201 19 to 24-year-olds to get a head start in their chosen careers between August 2015 and July 2017.
The apprenticeships were targeted at local small and medium-sized enterprises in West Yorkshire and York, supporting sectors such as manufacturing (281 firms received a grant), construction (691 firms) and information and communication (126 firms), among others.
The AGE programme was particularly successful in supporting firms that had never employed an apprentice before, with three-quarters of all businesses engaged (2,204) receiving funding for their first apprenticeship.
Latest figures show that, despite being home to more than 120,000 businesses, only 20% of Leeds City Region firms have ever offered an apprenticeship.
Money for the programme came from the first wave of devolution funding handed to West Yorkshire Combined Authority in 2015.
Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Chair of West Yorkshire Combined Authority and its lead on employment and skills, said: “Apprenticeships are a great way to earn while you learn and I’d encourage anyone who is looking to kick-start their career considers them as an alternative way into long-term employment.
“Our AGE programme proves how powerful devolved funding and devolved decision making is for local economies.
“West Yorkshire and York now have almost 1,400 extra apprentices in our key skills sectors, which is important for sustainable growth that benefits everyone.
“It is essential that further funding and more powers are made available so we can help even more talented young people who grow up in Leeds City Region access the training and careers that both suit them and strengthen our economy.”
Roger Marsh OBE, Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), added: “Our Apprenticeship Grant for Employers programme has been leading the way in boosting apprentice numbers in our key priority sectors of manufacturing, construction, information and communications.
“By investing £6.5m over two years, we have helped almost 4,000 young people get a foot on the ladder in their chosen career while also ensuring that apprenticeships are being offered where the City Region economy needs them most.
“Businesses and young people both benefit when apprenticeships are successful and I am delighted that more than 2,200 firms brought in their first ever apprentice with our support.”
Twenty-year-old James Davis from Wakefield is someone who benefitted from an AGE-funded apprenticeship.
His employer, Caltech IT Limited, based in Batley, received funding in 2016 to support James through his Level 3 Software Development apprenticeship.
He has since continued to pass his Level 4 apprenticeship and is now a full-time employee at the business.
James said: “When I left college, I had the choice of going to university or doing an apprenticeship but the chance to earn while I was training was a big incentive to go down the apprentice route.
“There’s not a moment I’ve regretted my choice and I’d certainly recommend an apprenticeship to others.
“It has supported me develop professionally while learning a skill and helped me to get a full-time job where every day is different and there is never a dull moment.”