Businesses in the Diss area have been urged to get involved in a pioneering apprenticeships scheme, which could be rolled out to other parts of Norfolk.

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South Norfolk-based Saffron Housing Trust has agreed to fund 20 apprentices to work for local businesses from next summer after investing £90,000 in the scheme.

Local small and medium-sized firms are now being urged to come forward to take part in the project after the housing provider promised to handle all the administration and training throughout the two year apprenticeships.

Businesspeople gathered at a Diss Business Form breakfast today to learn more about the scheme, which is aimed at young people who will be completing their GCSEs next year.

Students from Diss High School have been chosen as the first to take part in the pilot scheme, which also involves Broadland Council Training Services (BCTS) and social entrepreneur Robert Ashton.

Mr Ashton, who will work with Saffron to finalise the programme details as well as recruit and support the participating businesses, said it was a “common sense” approach to getting more young people in the workplace and cutting out the paperwork for firms interested in taking on an apprentice.

“Businesspeople are looking to have a good lifestyle and be part of the community. Why not create more jobs for young people where they live? It makes sense,” he said.

Companies that get involved in the scheme will have an apprentice working with them four days a week with the remaining day spent off-site studying.

Adam Ronaldson, chief executive of Saffron Housing Trust, said the housing trust had already seen the benefit of taking on apprentices and hoped the scheme would result in more young people getting into the world of work.

“The local businesses are so important to make it work. We will be recruiting in the summertime just before they do their exams and we need to find places for up to 20 of them.” “It is not in our remit, but it is becoming part of our remit to look after communities that our residents live in and seeing if we can help them. This feels the right way to spend some of our money,” he said.

Jan Hunt, headteacher at Diss High School, said she was “confident” that 20 students would get involved in the scheme after getting a good response from an introductory assembly into the project.

“We are delighted that they [Saffron] are giving something back and doing something for the students. Hopefully, this will be a model that works across South Norfolk,” she said.

For more information, contact John Whitelock, Saffron director of new Business on 01508 532046 or email him at jwhitelock@saffronhousing.co.uk

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