by Ian Girling, chief executive, Dorset Chamber of Commerce and Industry

WE recently celebrated National Apprenticeship Week, with events being held across Dorset and the wider the UK to celebrate the apprenticeship programme as a pathway to a successful career. We also saw the launch of the Apprenticeship Ambassador Network to fly the flag for apprenticeships, led by Superior Seals.

Apprenticeships offer both individuals and businesses a tremendous opportunity. They provide the ability to learn, develop skills and gain qualifications in a work environment and ‘earn as you learn’. For employers, they provide skilled, committed and enthusiastic people that will really make a positive impact in a business in many ways. And it is absolutely essential that businesses invest in skills for the future growth of the economy.

A great deal of emphasis is placed on promoting apprenticeships within schools and to employers and it’s equally important we continue to focus on educating parents. Parents are probably the main influencers in the direction of travel their son or daughter will take after school and it’s essential they have a clear understanding of all possible routes available, including apprenticeships.

The traditional post-16 school, college and university options are generally well-understood. However, some parents may not necessarily understand the apprenticeship programme and the tremendous opportunities this can offer – or the range of excellent businesses that place great value on the programme, offering tremendous opportunities. Some may also have a negative perception of apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships are not about lower-level qualifications, cheap labour or low value work. Apprenticeships are about providing high quality training and qualifications alongside employment – providing the skills that businesses need. Some parents may not be aware of how much apprenticeships have developed over the years and can now include a degree or other higher education qualifications. Some may not know that businesses in all sectors now embrace the apprentice route to recruit and train alongside the traditional university route, enabling young people to work and gain skills at the same time they are undertaking their degree. Some may not know of the incredible range of great Dorset businesses, college and training providers offering fantastic apprenticeship opportunities at all levels. Businesses in all sectors are now using the apprenticeship programme to recruit and train at all levels.

The British Chambers of Commerce see skills as the key challenge for business as we look to the future. We have an ageing workforce. The world has also become a much smaller place through the development of digital technology – and business need to be competitive on every level.  Businesses regularly tell us they often experience real challenges when looking for skilled employees – and the apprentice programme is fundamental to their business.

We have been promoting the benefits of apprenticeships in schools through our Young Chamber programme. We also work very closely with our Business Partners Bournemouth and Poole College in promoting apprenticeships. I also know that Dorset colleges, training providers and of course employers place great emphasis on engaging with schools. They also have a very strong focus on engaging with parents to help them guide their children as they look to their future careers.

If you are a parent and would like to find out more about the tremendous apprenticeship opportunities available to your children or the fantastic Dorset businesses, colleges and training providers offering apprenticeships, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and we can put you in touch with the experts.