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Kent County Council pledges to raise awareness around apprenticeships

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Kent County Council has launched plans to boost the number of apprentices over the next four years and increase awareness among young people of apprenticeships as a viable career choice.

There are thought to be around 50,000 businesses in Kent - but just 3,500 of them currently employ an apprentice. Only 6% of young people in the county are currently working in an apprenticeship with 18-24 year olds making up nearly 30% of all unemployment in Kent.

Being able to 'earn as you learn' gives young people aged 16-24 the chance to be employed in an industry and gain a salary of £105 per week while studying. Apprenticeships last between 1-4 years and result in a formal qualification and valuable experience of the workplace.

The council will encourage employers to appoint apprentices in line with the academic year so there is real progression straight from school to employment and work directly with schools to better promote apprenticeships as a career choice

KCC will also introduce a requirement in its supplier contracts worth over £1million, so its own suppliers will have to offer at least one apprenticeship per £1million spend on labour. The first contract to use this new arrangement is with Enterprise, which will be delivering the highways maintenance on behalf of KCC for the next five years starting 1 Sept 2011. It means that a minimum of 3% of the employees (approximately 12) will be involved in delivering the services will be on a formal apprenticeship programme. Enterprise has said it is their intention to exceed this figure where practical.

The council has also pledged to create a one-stop-shop for employers giving them all the advice and support they need.

KCC cabinet member for customer and communities Mike Hill said: "We know that apprenticeships can make a real difference to the careers of young people and the prosperity of local businesses. But we have to recognise and remove the obstacles which are preventing some people from discovering those benefits. We've set ourselves some ambitious targets but we are serious about making apprenticeships work in Kent."