His Royal Highness The Duke of York KG launches Leeds City Region Apprenticeship Challenge


Small and medium sized businesses across Leeds City Region have been urged to take on an apprentice, as part of a new campaign officially launched by His Royal Highness The Duke of York KG.

The Duke unveiled the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Apprenticeship Challenge during his speech to 200 SMEs attending a conference at the Royal Armouries in Leeds, on Tuesday March 4th.

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 the beginning of a career. I hope that the Leeds City Region Challenge can be fulfilled and that the momentum that has already started will continue."

Employers were urged to sign pledge cards showing their commitment to find out more about the campaign which aims to secure at least 1,000 SMEs offering apprenticeships from April 2014 to March 2015.

Guests found out about the free and independent advice available from the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership Apprenticeship Hubs which are based across ten local authority areas to make it easier for SMEs to recruit apprentices.

To sign upto the pledge online and for more information about the campaign and advice available go to www.apprenticeship-hubs.co.uk. The event was part of a wider tour on March 4th including Leeds College of Building and Leeds City College. It coincided with National Apprenticeship Week from March 3rd to 7th.

Roger Marsh, Chair of Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, said: "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.

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."

At Leeds College of Building's Stourton site, on Intermezzo Drive, His Royal Highness met apprentices, students and local dignitaries, toured the main construction workshop and unveiled a commemorative plaque. Leeds College of Building is the only specialist further and higher education construction college in the UK with 7,500 students and more than 900 apprentices on its own managing agency. The college offers 23 different apprenticeships including brickwork, surveying, plumbing, civil engineering and facilities management.

Leeds College of Building is a lead partner in the national development of a Higher Apprenticeship in Construction and the Built Environment, an alternative route for employers and students to the traditional university and degree pathway. Since the project began two years-ago there are now 20 colleges nationally supporting it. Twenty one of the current 183 apprentices studying the qualification are at Leeds College of Building.

Ian Billyard, Principal of Leeds College of Building, said: "We are delighted that His Royal Highness could join us. The Duke has a passion for apprenticeships and the construction and engineering sector, and that clearly showed when he was speaking with our apprentices, students and staff."

Ashley Campbell, 18, a higher apprentice at Leeds College of Building, added: “It’s not every day that you get to meet The Duke of York. The higher apprenticeship course is giving me so many opportunities to develop my career prospects. It is fantastic that we can highlight the benefits and raise the profile of apprenticeships through a Royal visit."

Gareth Davies, 22, a higher apprentice at Leeds College of Building, said: “It was great to meet His Royal Highness. I am really enjoying the higher apprenticeship course. It offers the best of both worlds. I can study towards an academic qualification and be employed in a full-time role!"

The Duke moved on to officially open Leeds City College's new £26 million Printworks campus, on Hunslet Road, completed in September 2013. Located on the site of the former Alf Cooke’s Printworks, the campus blends restored historical buildings with contemporary architecture. It is one of the most recognisable industrial landmarks in Leeds and houses specialist vocational and general facilities. His Royal Highness spoke with hospitality, catering, bakery and butchery apprentices and students, and led a business lunch and debate with the LEP Board at the college's Food Academy restaurant, to discuss LEP priorities for the region.

Leeds City College is one of the single largest apprenticeship providers and further education colleges nationally, with more than 40,000 students. The college launched the 14+ Leeds Apprenticeship Academy in September 2013 - a national first. The pre-apprenticeship offer is for 14-16 year olds to prepare them for the world of work. Students complete five GCSEs and a vocational qualification. Subjects include hospitality, sport and fitness and motor industry to retail, digital media and engineering - areas identified for future growth and employment regionally. In the second year of the course, they attend a weekly employer placement.

Peter Roberts, Chief Executive and Principal of Leeds City College, said: "It was a great honour that The Duke of York was able to spend time with some of our apprentices from a broad range of sectors. It was particularly rewarding to see how genuinely interested he was in the breadth of opportunities that apprenticeships offer from pre-16 preparation for work through to high level skills training in the workplace. Having a member of the Royal family to officially open our new Printworks Campus was a memorable event for everyone involved including our students, staff and stakeholders."

Paris Kaye, 16, who is studying at Leeds City College's 14+ Leeds Apprenticeship Academy, said it was a great opportunity to meet His Royal Highness. She added: "The Duke spoke to us about our personal experiences - what we are studying and how coming to the apprenticeship academy has made a difference and how we are getting on."

Butchery apprentice Chris Broadbent, 17, who was recently named Best Learner in the Meat Industry 2013, said: "The Duke was particularly interested in knowing more about how I became involved in butchery and how it has helped my skills development."

After visiting the colleges and the LEP business conference, The Duke attended Leeds Civic Hall to congratulate some of the apprentice nominees and their employers attending the Leeds Apprenticeship Awards ceremony taking place that evening. The awards recognise the outstanding contribution apprentices make to the city, and the employers who train them. The panel of judges included representatives from Leeds City Council, the National Apprenticeship Service, Leeds City College, and Leeds College of Building.