Unique scheme to get young people jobs is launched in Watton

The launch of SWARM at Wayland Academy, Wayland student apprentices, Karl Duke (front right) with fr

The launch of SWARM at Wayland Academy, Wayland student apprentices, Karl Duke (front right) with from left, Arkadiusz Brzeziski and Georrge Symonds, with from back left, Norfolk County Councillor Alison Thomas, Academy Head Michael Rose, MD of SWARM, Robert Ashton, Tom Llewellyn (Orbit East) and Norfolk County Councillor Ann Steward. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

A company bringing Norfolk's market towns' young people and businesses together - whilst cutting out bureaucracy - has been launched. ROSA MCMAHON reports on how Swarm wants local apprentices to thrive.

The concept of small businesses taking on eager apprentices without excessive expense and paperwork is a simple one.

Local companies wanting to expand, coupled with young people who live in and know the area where local businesses work, makes sense.

And that's why over the next two years Norfolk County Council has given £50,000 to Swarm, a new company established to deliver this new-take on apprentice schemes.

Set up by social entrepreneur Robert Ashton, Swarm was launched at Wayland Academy in Watton yesterday as part of National Apprenticeship Week.

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As well as teaching young people about running a business, uniquely the scheme will be thoroughly local, serving the county's market towns.

Swarm, which is a membership organisation made up of businesses signed up to the scheme, will create groups containing 10 apprentices and 10 businesses centred around a market town.

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With 80 spaces for businesses and apprentices available, Swarm will employ the apprentices directly, freeing the businesses of paperwork, with the hope that at the end of the year the apprentice will transfer employment from Swarm to the business they're working with.

Mr Ashton, who lives near Wymondham, said the apprenticeships will allow young people to develop their roles within the small businesses in their area.

He said: 'We want to focus the youngsters on making money for their businesses so that they can grow a job for themselves when they gain their qualification.

'We want them to very quickly become indispensable to the business.

'It's about business ideas and getting involved in building the business and really getting stuck in the career.'

Students from Wayland Academy were last night given a first glimpse of the opportunities available, including learning practical skills, while getting paid to complete the year-long course.

Open to 16 to 24-year-olds, Mr Ashton says he is mainly focusing the scheme on 16 and 17-year-olds who will then go on to earn £3.68 an hour for a 30-hour week, but is also open to young people up to the age of 24.

Mr Ashton said the admission of the pupils on to the scheme will be taken on a case-by-case basis, and added that the main point for the young people is their attitude.

Businesses, he said, will have a great opportunity to grow their business, while investing in the future.

Year 10 and 11 pupils at Wayland Academy have already shown an interest in the programme, and the school's headteacher Michael Rose welcomed the new scheme, hailing it as having the potential to go national.

He said: 'I think it is wonderful that Norfolk is leading the way in this new initiative.

'We have masses of untapped potential in our young people waiting to be released and realised – this project is a significant step in that direction.'

Along with the county council, the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses have also thrown their support behind the venture.

While the training for the programme is delivered by City College Norwich, the educational side of the venture will take place in the market towns, eliminating travel cost and problems.

Alison Thomas, cabinet member for children's services at the county council, said the programme is a unique one for Norfolk, and emphasised the benefits for young people living in market towns.

She said: 'In a large rural county, having apprenticeship openings, and the vital training that comes with it close to home rather than in urban areas alone, can only be a real plus for young people living in rural areas.'

Orbit Housing is sponsoring the Watton group, and Tom Llewellyn, the community investment officer for Orbit, said their investment was a 'fantastic' opportunity to grow businesses and jobs for young people in a town where they already provide homes.

He said: 'Our sponsorship means that businesses literally just pay the wage of their apprentice.

'All the support and back-up is covered by our investment.'

Ann Steward, cabinet member for economic development at Norfolk County Council, emphasised the benefits of the scheme for small businesses of one to five people who may have been put off apprenticeships before because of the excessive paperwork.

She said: 'For larger companies it's easier because they have the people [to do the paperwork].'

'The county council is delighted to have been able to help fund this exciting initiative which will not only give valuable work opportunities to dozens of young people in Norfolk over the next couple of years, but also give a real helping hand to help Norfolk's very small businesses to grow for the future. The county council is doing what it can to encourage the take-up of apprenticeships on a range of fronts, but targeting the small employers in this way seems exactly the right thing to do.'

To find out more, call Robert Ashton on 01953 605000 or email Robert@robertashton.co.uk

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