Apprentices at social housing provider Mears Group were praised this week by MEP for South East England Catherine Bearder during a tour of the company.
The organisation, which has taken on nearly 50 apprentices, invited Catherine to their premises in Brighton. Whilst at the Mear Group offices, Catherine was able to see firsthand the impact which apprentices are making on the organisation by visiting an eco-house that the apprentices have worked on and learning more about the different aspects of their apprenticeship.
Gemma Pope, who is an apprentice gas operative at the organisation talked to Catherine about the experiences and opportunities she has had since starting her apprenticeship: "After working in the office as an administrator organising the plumbers, I saw a great opportunity to change the direction of my career with Mears by becoming a Gas Operative.
"My apprenticeship is a great way for me to earn while I learn in a real job, gaining a real qualification and a future in a career that I enjoy."
Catherine said: "I left school at 15, so I understand learning is not all about school and university. Learning on the job can be equally as important. Apprentices make companies more productive and give young people experience and skills they need. We must tackle youth unemployment and get our economy back on track and apprenticeships are a huge part of that."
Mears Group is one of over 100,000 employers in England which currently offer apprenticeships in 170 different sectors industries and across 1500 job roles. During the 2011/2012 academic year more than half a million people started an apprenticeship in England, representing growth of 13.9 per cent on the previous year.
James Cryer, Manager Mears Brighton said: "Over the past four years Mears have taken on 49 local people as apprentices. Many of these individuals were previously unemployed and our programme has given them the skills and opportunities they need for a future career. But these benefits aren't just one way, year on year our apprentice programme grows and we have found that hiring apprentices helps Mears develop a motivated, skilled and qualified workforce."
Mark Howard, Divisional Area Director for the National Apprenticeship Service, Southern said: "Apprentices have a major part to play in the future of our local economy and the skills they bring can help businesses to develop, be successful and grow. I was delighted that Catherine was able to visit Mears Group and be shown first-hand the impact that hiring apprentices can have on a business, it highlighted that apprenticeships deliver a motivated, skilled and qualified workforce."
For information about apprenticeships and the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers of 16 to 24 year olds (AGE 16 to 24) which offers £1500 to help eligible businesses cover the costs of taking on a new apprentice, visit apprenticeships.org.uk or call 08000 150 600.