Hoveton family firm’s battle to find apprentices

Chris Jeckells: current boss of Jeckells which has been making sails for seven generations.

Chris Jeckells: current boss of Jeckells which has been making sails for seven generations. - Credit: Colin Finch

The Government's push to champion apprenticeships highlighted in last week's budget has left the bosses of one Norfolk business scratching their heads.

For seventh-generation family firm Jeckells of Wroxham has been advertising two sail making apprenticeships for over a year without any take-up.

The final straw for sales manager Mike Jones came earlier this month when two youngsters who had expressed great interest cancelled their interviews at the last minute.

He said: 'We have used three agencies and written to all the local high schools but I have to say the response has been pretty poor apart from North Walsham High School.'

Mr Jones believes that despite the government's renewed focus on apprenticeships schools may be still more interested in trying to push teenagers down an academic route.

He said: 'We don't need high attainment kids and I would not want to take someone destined to go to university.

'But surely we would offer a good alternative if the choice otherwise is stacking shelves in Tesco or working on the checkout at Roys.'

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He said they were looking for someone who was good with their hands, practical and with a bit of common sense; they would not need fantastic levels of literacy or numeracy.

The Station Road firm, which has been operating for 182 years, employs 17 people and has a steady £1.5m turnover; in recent years it has diversified into a new market making shade sails and canopies.

Mr Jones said the need for fresh blood was growing as three of their key staff were in their 60s with more than 100 years experience between them.

He said: 'They will retire some time soon and we want to have some apprentices here to work alongside them so when they eventually go we are not left up a river without a paddle.'

He said once qualified the apprentices could eventually reach a salary of £25,000 with plenty of overtime available.

'What we are offering is a job for life in a good working environment,' he said.

Anyone young person interested is invited to email mike@jeckells.co.uk

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