Council leader wants more young people to take on apprenticeships

North Devon Gazette

More young people should stay in Devon and take up apprenticeships, says the leader of Devon County Council.Â

Councillor John Hart said the pandemic had not changed his priorities as leader, which are still ‘training, skills, jobs and prosperity for Devon’ and hoped more young people will choose an apprenticeship here rather than leave for university.Â

According to government figures, just under 8,000 people in Devon (including Torbay and Plymouth) started an apprenticeship in 2019/20 – down from the previous year because of covid. Plymouth provided the most places, with East Devon second.Â

On apprenticeships, cllr Hart said: “You learn as well as you would in university. You don’t have the university life, possibly, but you learn on the job and you don’t have the £40,000 bill at the end of the three years.”Â

The Conservative council leader also pointed to a number of training hubs being established around the county to try and keep young skills in the area, as well as the ‘Node’ – an enterprise centre recently built on the edge of Barnstaple offering flexible office accommodation for small and medium size businesses.Â

When asked how the authority was looking to share prosperity around the county, as currently around five per cent of Devon’s population live in the most deprived 25 per cent of areas nationally, cllr Hart said: “We have put in better training in North Devon in particular. We brought this Node in, which is this mini science park, and we’re working closely with Petroc.Â

“People going to colleges now are much more all age groups, improving their skills and their learning. Offer the courses right and the people will go to it.”Â

However, the council leader, who’s been in charge at county hall since 2009, stressed there was only so much local authorities could do.Â

“You can put in position the ability for prosperity to be shared, you cannot share it yourself. Same as the local government cannot actually start jobs. Our role is to create the atmosphere for jobs to be created.”Â

He also says the pandemic has shown the resilient of Devon’s people and that the county is bouncing back well from the last 18 months. But he warned of continuing areas of concern.Â

“We still have an awful lot of people on furlough and we have a lot of [organisations] who are short of employees, especially in the holiday, tourism and to a certain extent the ‘pick-your-own’ farming structure,” Cllr Hart said.Â

“I’m not quite sure how that’s going to change because we’ve got to remember we don’t have the overseas employees either,”- a reference to a fall in the number of European citizens available to work in the county.Â