Initiative aims to blaze a trail for apprenticeships

A new Olympic-style torch is due to arrive in Kent, blazing a trail for apprenticeships and the opportunities they are offering to employees, businesses and the economy itself.
The initiative is called Pass the Torch and draws on the same Olympic ideals of creativity, endeavour and passing on a baton of knowledge from person to person. It has already seen colleges and authorities including Kent County Council sign up to highlight the values of passing on the knowledge of the world of work to a new generation.
Pass the Torch, supported by the National Apprenticeship Service, will see a specially-designed torch, created by first and second year apprentices at MOD Boscombe Down, take pride of place at two events – Kent Vision LIVE on May 11 and the employers fair at Mid Kent College, Gillingham, on May 19.
It’s a significant step. Ask most people a few years ago what they knew about apprenticeships and you were likely to get answers including: ‘they’re for hairdressers’ or ‘garage mechanics.’ But in the run-up to the county’s dates with the torch, its been revealed the number of people starting apprenticeships in Kent grew by 2,290 people in the last four years amid a flurry of new employers and growing awareness.

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For those entering the workplace there are now 1,500 different roles across 170 industries with up to 28,000 quality apprenticeship vacancies available at any given time.
Business, administration and law make up the majority of sectors that Kent-based apprentices are choosing to embark on, with health, public services and care industries following close behind.
Government backing for the value of apprenticeships has been made too – with a commitment of three million new apprenticeships by 2020.
It is with this background that Pass the Torch will highlight just how beneficial apprenticeships are to everyone involved in them – from students and young people to colleges and employers. 
For those considering starting their careers with an apprenticeship you don’t need to look far to see the range of opportunities on offer.
Earlier this year Mid Kent College in Gillingham teamed up with Paydens Pharmacy, to offer a new scheme in Pharmacy services. Apprentices would study for an intermediate apprenticeship – the equivalent to five GCSEs.
Becky Farley, MidKent College business adviser, said of the scheme: “We are working with a local employer who shares our passion to develop talent and lasting career opportunities within an innovative and interesting business sector.”
For those aged over 16 thinking of a career in engineering, EDF Energy offered placements at its Dungeness B power station, which included two years training at the Navy’s HMS Sultan training base, near Portsmouth.
Claire Nicholson-Clinch is regional projects manager for the Association of Colleges in the Eastern Region (ACER), and spearheads Pass the Torch.
She said: “The campaign is asking employers to pledge their commitment to support apprenticeships and traineeships across the eastern region. We’ve seen apprenticeships change lives and know they offer valuable opportunities for young people.  
“Businesses find productivity increases and this helps our economy thrive.”

Pass the Torch campaign is highlighting the sky really is the limit for trainees and businesses. You can find out more at www.passthetorch.uk or by attending Kent Vision LIVE, at the Kent Event Centre, Detling, on May 11, (www.kentvision-live.co.uk) or visiting the Mid Kent College’s employers fair on May 19, at the campus at Medway Road, Gillingham. Call 01634 383000 for more details.

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