The Duke unveiled the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Apprenticeship Challenge during his speech to 150 SMEs attending a conference at the Royal Armouries in Leeds, West Yorkshire, on Tuesday March 4th.
The campaign aims to secure at least 1,000 SMEs offering apprenticeships for 16 to 24-year-olds during the next financial year across Leeds City Region. His Royal Highness told the audience that businesses can inspire young people by giving them a chance to develop and take pride in a skill, adding that has wider benefits for communities.
He said that young people cannot gain experience and work skills if businesses are not prepared to offer that opportunity in the first place, and challenged employers to take on an apprentice. His Royal Highness acknowledged there are risks for businesses but said that the support being offered across Leeds City Region is helping to mitigate those.
The Duke said: “An apprenticeship is the start of a career. I hope that the Leeds City Region Challenge can be fulfilled and that the momentum that has already started will continue.”
A free and independent advice service is now available for small and medium sized businesses across Leeds City Region who want to find out about the benefits and practical steps involved in taking on an apprentice. The LEP’s Apprenticeship Hub Programme runs across ten local authority areas to make it easier for SMEs to recruit apprentices. For more information about the campaign and the advice available go to www.apprenticeship-hubs.co.uk.
The hubs are based in Barnsley, Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds, North Yorkshire (comprising Craven, Harrogate and Selby), Wakefield and York. They are targeting SMEs (businesses with 249 employees or less) who have not previously offered apprenticeships or who have not offered an apprenticeship within the last twelve months.
Funding for the programme has been secured by the LEP through the government’s City Deal initiative as part of wider moves to tackle youth unemployment and boost business growth.
Roger Marsh, Chair of Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, said: “The LEP is committed to maintaining this momentum. We will work with businesses to step up to the Apprenticeship Challenge and offer our young people the opportunities they need to develop their skills and gain vital work experience. We are delighted the Duke of York acknowledged the hard work of all our partners in providing the opportunities our young people need to build a career for the future.”