A senior Hartlepool politician has welcomed a new push to provide more apprenticeships in the town and the rest of the Tees Valley.
Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, the Leader of Hartlepool Borough Council, said devolution of an Apprenticeship Grant for Employers to the Tees Valley Combined Authority is creating more opportunities for young people and benefits for local businesses.
His comments came as Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen launched a new drive to accelerate the number of high quality apprenticeships, after the scheme helped support more than 1,000 apprentices in the last year.
Coun Akers-Belcher, who is also the combined authority’s Cabinet Member for Education, Employment and Skills, said: “I wholeheartedly welcome this new drive to support apprenticeships.
“We are creating more quality apprenticeships for our young people and providing employment and learning opportunities which will boost the economic prosperity of the area.
“By taking responsibility locally we are transforming the apprenticeship programme so that it meets the area’s needs and putting more focus on higher and degree-level apprenticeships that provide practical progression to higher skilled jobs.
“I sincerely hope that Tees Valley businesses will continue to play their part in creating apprenticeship opportunities that the young people of our area so richly deserve.”
The new programme, which will be funded by the combined authority, will particularly support the creation of apprenticeships by high demand small to medium-sized firms in sectors including advanced manufacturing, chemicals and energy, health and biologicals, digital and creative and culture and leisure.
Mr Houchen announced the initiative as he visited James Williams, an apprentice at Bridgman IBC in Hartlepool, who was supported under the previous scheme.
Mr Houchen said: “Now more than ever we need more of the skills that local businesses are crying out for. This new scheme will address this shortage by specifically targeting the sectors of our economy which have the highest growth potential.”
James added: “I would encourage other young people to explore the apprenticeship route and I hope that through the new grant scheme there will be lots of opportunities for others to benefit as I have.”