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Apprenticeships key to business recovery

Richard Kirk, CEO & Founder of Workplus

Belfast-based @_Workplus has been awarded a £40,000 grant from @InnovateUK’s Fast Start Competition to help businesses adapting to COVID-19 develop #talent through #apprenticeships.

The funding is part of a £40m government investment through Research and Innovation UK for cutting-edge start-ups to drive forward new technological advances to focus on the needs of society and industries during and following the pandemic.

Over 8,600 companies applied for the funding with around 10% receiving investment.

The funding will be used to help businesses explore apprenticeships as a way of finding new talent or upskilling existing employees.  It will also allow Workplus to invest in its platform and support a recruitment campaign in January 2021 to help employers across the UK and Ireland find new apprentices.

Workplus’ mission is to change how our culture views apprenticeships by making it easier for employers and apprentices to find each other.

Richard Kirk, CEO & Founder of Workplus, explained:

“This recent period has been highly uncertain for society as a whole. The Innovate UK funding will help us support businesses as they emerge from the initial shock of COVID-19, as well as providing opportunities for young people who are so much at risk from the fall-out of the pandemic.

“Apprenticeships are the best way for businesses to find and develop new talent and they are vital to our economic recovery in the medium to long term. They are good news for employers, the economy, young people and those who want to re-train from unemployment.

“The companies we work with have found that apprentices are three times more likely to stay than employees joining through other routes.

“Apprenticeships are now available in areas including civil engineering, IT, fintech, marketing, sales, customer service, accounting and life sciences. Businesses have a crucial part to play in working with government to develop new apprenticeship pathways to meet industry needs.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Boris Johnston announced that all young people in Britain would be guaranteed an apprenticeship as he warned that it was inevitable that there would be “many, many job losses”.

Mr Kirk welcomed the commitment but warned that apprenticeships shouldn’t be seen as a quick-fix solution to curb youth unemployment:

“Countries with an apprenticeship culture, like Germany, experience the lowest levels of youth unemployment. With Ulster University Economic Policy Centre predicting that youth unemployment in NI could rise to 26% by the end of 2020, government must invest further in an apprenticeship approach.

“However, apprenticeships are about quality of learning, fresh thinking and innovation for both the employer and the apprentice, rather than creating huge amounts of temporary solutions which won’t equip young people with the skills and education they need to pursue a career and become the business leaders of the future.”

Executive Chair of Innovate UK, Dr Ian Campbell, said:

“Businesses from all over the UK have answered our call rapidly to meet the challenges we face today and in the future through the power of innovation. The ideas we have seen can truly make a significant impact on society, improve the lives of individuals, especially those in vulnerable groups and enable businesses to prosper in challenging circumstances.” 

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