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Graphic: Rise in apprenticeships reported across Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 11:26 05 February 2014 | UPDATED: 11:26 05 February 2014

Caroline Williams, chief executive of Norfolk Chamber

Caroline Williams, chief executive of Norfolk Chamber

There has been a significant rise in the number of apprenticeships created by Norfolk employers - but it is still not sufficient to meet a surge in demand from young people.

And with a huge regional growth in construction jobs expected and predictions of a new boom in offshore work, fears have been raised of a potential skills timebomb.

It is a predicament recognised by New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership which has set a target for 5,000 new apprentices by 2020 in its Skills Manifesto.

• Click here for a graphic illustrating construction industry growth

The latest figures show a 31pc increase in apprenticeship vacancies posted online in Norfolk between August and October 2013 compared to the same period the previous year.

The data from the government agency the National Apprenticeship Service also revealed that over the same period the number of online applications for apprenticeships increased in the county by 50pc.

Nationally, the index shows that apprenticeships are attracting increasing numbers of applications from female candidates.

Skills and enterprise minister Matthew Hancock said: “These figures show that apprenticeships are growing in appeal to young people, and yet more young women are seeking out this unique opportunity to earn while they learn.

“But with each online position attracting an average of 12 applications, demand continues to outstrip supply and I would urge more employers to consider how they can take advantage of this available pool of talent and grow their business through apprenticeships.”

News that apprenticeship vacancies are failing to keep pace with demand comes in the same week that the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) released a report predicting more than 25,000 new jobs will be created across the region in the next five years.

Catherine Bullough, senior strategy manager for CITB, said: “The report shows that the economy is turning the corner and the East of England’s construction industry will benefit from that.

“However, with 20pc of local construction workers nearing retirement, we are facing a potential skills ‘timebomb’,”

Her warning of a skills shortage echoes the prediction of James Hall, manager of the Great Yarmouth-based 3sun Group’s training academy, which is massively expanding its operation to meet the offshore industry’s rapidly growing demand for skilled engineers.

Caroline Williams, chief executive of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, was heartened by news that the county “continues to buck the national trend in terms of apprenticeship numbers and the Norfolk business community is keen to step up to the challenge”.

She said: “Campaigns such as the Norwich for Jobs initiative, which aims to get local businesses to commit to helping young people to access work experience placements and apprenticeships are starting to see some brilliant results.

“Norfolk Chamber is part of the steering group for NFJ and has been really excited to see the work that has been achieved so far. Norfolk Chamber also employs three apprentices of our own, which represents 25pc of our workforce.”

She said more could still be done by local employers and it would be great to hear about more Norfolk businesses looking to recruit apprentices.

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