Norfolk County Council could subsidise apprenticeships for young people

Business bosses could be handed money from Norfolk County Council to subsidise the wages of apprentices, in an attempt to get more young people into work.

The idea was revealed at a meeting at County Hall yesterday, where it was warmly welcomed by councillors who say the vitality of Norfolk's economy is dependent upon the workforce of the future.

As reported in the EDP, Norfolk County Council will this year receive an �8.6m windfall from the government in return for freezing its share of the council tax.

Deputy leader Ian Mackie had said he wanted some of that money to be spent on creating jobs and apprenticeships, and at yesterday's meeting of the council's environment, transport and development overview and scrutiny panel some of the suggestions for how to use it were aired.

Fiona McDiarmid, head of economic development and strategy, told the committee that the wage subsidy was among the ideas officers had come up with. She said: 'One of the proposals is to offer a wage subsidy to small and medium sized enterprises to encourage them to take on new apprentices.

'There is a national scheme which was announced in the autumn budget statement about apprenticeships for people on benefits and whatever we did would have to complement that. 'But the basic concept would be to encourage employers to take on apprentices with some sort of wage subsidy.

'We feel that would give a boost to young people and a boost to smaller and medium sized businesses, which are an important part of the economy.' She said work would be needed to figure out the costings and application of such a scheme, but said other possibilities were for work placements ahead of apprenticeships and for graduates to be offered work experience at the county council.

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Brian Isles, Conservative councillor for Acle, welcomed the suggestions. He said: 'It is so important to the county that we have a well trained workforce to take up jobs at firms which might be considering moving to the county.

'There's no point encouraging firms to move here if we do not have a skilled workforce for them to employ.'

Tony Adams, Conservative councillor for Drayton and Horsford, agreed. He said: 'I welcome the suggestion to extend the number of apprentices. I think the education system has made a mistake in a one size fits all approach.

'Not everyone is academically gifted and some people are much better with their hands or at mechanics.'


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