Norfolk chief executive experiences Apprenticeship

He may run a �14m a year operation, but Broadland District Council chief executive Colin Bland demonstrated another string to his bow last week and showed why Norfolk firms can hit the bull's eye by taking on an apprentice.

Mr Bland stepped into the shoes of 18-year-old apprentice James Newman, who is currently learning a range of retail skills with Norwich retailers Clickers Archery thanks to an apprenticeship programme operated by the council's training arm, Broadland Council Training Services.

Mr Bland took his place behind the shop counter to mark the National Apprenticeships Week, which is designed to introduce employers to the benefits that taking on apprentices can bring to their businesses.

He also learnt how to 'fletch' a set of flights for custom-prepared arrows, and was given a quick lesson in how to shoot.

He said: 'I seem to spend most of my time behind a desk, so it was great to get behind a counter and sample life in the retail sector. I thoroughly enjoyed shadowing James, but I think I'll stick to the day job.

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'As a council, we are keen to promote apprenticeships for those who decide not to continue in full-time education. It's clear the Coalition Government has identified apprenticeships as a key part of its strategy to provide a skilled work force.'

It was the first time Clickers' owner Graham Harris, who took on Mr Newman in July 2009, had been involved in the apprenticeship programme.

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Mr Harris said: 'I never cease to be amazed that more employers don't jump at the opportunity that the scheme offers to companies like ours, particularly in these very challenging trading times that we are in.

'Having James on the programme has not only benefited him, but us as a company as well because he's young, enthusiastic and well motivated. His questions have reminded me of the sort of things I had actually forgotten about the business as well.'

Mr Bland also presented Mr Newman with his final certificates to mark completing his apprenticeship framework.

Research commissioned by the Learning and Skills Council shows that more than 80pc of companies agreed that apprentices made their work place more productive, and almost 70pc said taking part in the scheme cut their recruitment costs.

Findings also show that on average, an apprentice paid back a firm's investment costs in 2.5 years, and was a far more cost effective way of maintaining a skilled workforce than hiring already-trained staff.

The National Apprenticeship Service are running The Challenge Norfolk 100 in 100 campaign with partners, Eastern Daily Press, the Norwich Evening News, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, Shaping Norfolk's Future, Federation of Small Business, Institute of Directors, Norfolk County Council, Connexions and the provider network.

Employers who would like to find out more about employing an apprentice should call 08000 150 600 or check out the NAS website

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