December 6 2013 Latest news:
Thursday, August 15, 2013
A south Norfolk entrepreneur who is on a mission to combat youth unemployment is appealing for apprentices to join up with Norfolk businesses.
Robert Ashton has devised Swarm, a social business which matches businesses and young people in Norfolk.
Mr Ashton, who lives in Wymondham, created the plan which sees young people learn skills and take part in on-the-job training while employers get a return on their investment.
He said: “Most businesses in Norfolk are small businesses with fewer than 10 people and those businesses find it almost impossible to take on an apprentice.
“There are 22 businesses in Norfolk which are trying to persuade businesses to take on an apprentice. “The Swarm model is different in a number of ways.”
Youngsters complete a diploma in enterprising skills in a business environment and even learn how to pitch an idea and the apprentices all meet once a month for training.
“They are working in real situations as a group rather than working from abstract case studies,” Mr Ashton said.
“Each apprentice and business owner meets with me and we set a measurable goal.
“I held some focus groups around the region and small businesses loved the idea.”
Apprenticeships last 18 months and Swarm offers support for the first 12.
The target group is youngsters who get their GCSE results next week or those who have done their AS-levels and do not want to go to university.
Funded by a £50,000 grant from Norfolk County Council, the scheme is also sponsored by Orbit East in Breckland and Victory Housing in North Norfolk.
“About 22% of graduates don’t get a job,” Mr Ashton added. “For me, the dream is that Swarm grows and becomes robust in Norfolk. We have already got people in Suffolk who want to find out about it. The big picture is that it becomes a large social enterprise.
“If you are a small business and want to grow, taking another person on can be a big step. But with all the grants available it’s remarkably cheap and can cost less than £50 per week.
“There is a lot of prejudice around the word apprentice. It’s just a name.”
Project manager at Swarm, Jessica Juby, 22, started working with Mr Ashton as an apprentice when she was 18 years old.
But now the entrepreneur is looking to recruit a new apprentice to help secure public speaking bookings and promote his social enterprise work.
To get involved, call 01953 605000 or see www.swarmapprentice.org.uk