APPRENTICESHIPS are a vital tool in encouraging young people into work and training, especially with youth unemployment levels at a record high of 965,000.
At LT Print in the Wirral, owners Bob and Carole McWilliams understand the importance of vocational training and have recently taken on a new apprentice – 18-year-old Jodi-Beth Price from New Ferry.
Jodi-Beth, who joined in October, is studying for a Level 3 NVQ Apprenticeship through the British Printing Industries Federation.
She was taken on through Wirral Council programme The Wirral Apprentice, which launched in 2009 and has since created more than 300 apprenticeships.
Bob said: "As a business we have always been aware of our social responsibility and have looked to take on young, local people wherever possible.
"At the moment Jodi-Beth is working mainly at LT Print Group’s Digital Centre in Hamilton Street, Birkenhead, although it is intended that she will also spend some time working along-side the business’s team of graphic designers at the head office and main print factory in Wallasey.
"Jodi-Beth has a two year contract with us and we will do everything we can to help and support her through the training process. She has made a good start and we are pleased to have her in the team."
Jodi-Beth said she was put off going to university because of the costs and potential debt, but knew she wanted to train in graphic design.
The former Rock Ferry High School pupil said: "This course is excellent as all my learning is work based and I much prefer the practical side of the training. I was not sure if I could afford to do a degree, but by doing an apprenticeship I am hands on with the printing and design rather than simply learning about theory.
"At first I was doing very basic work, but now I am getting more responsibility and working with clients on their print and design needs. There is a lot of complex printing equipment in the office but I am being mentored by the Digital Centre Manager Charlie Farrell, who has been training me up on the machinery and the all the computer design programmes.
"I work five days a week and my assessor comes in once a month to look at my coursework and check out my progress. Everything is going well and as soon as I joined all the staff accepted me as part of the team. I would definitely recommend an apprenticeship to school leavers as for me it is the best way of getting the skills that set you up for a career."
Apprentices are a key part of LT Print’s 40-strong workforce, with the firm employing no less than eight members of staff who joined through an apprenticeship with the business. This includes printer Dave Edwards who joined in 1987, designer Emma Harford who was taken on in 1990, and guillotine operator Mark Smurthwaite who has been with LT Print for a relatively short time of 12 years. LT Print is also currently in the process of appointing an Administrative Apprentice.
Bob added: "Taking on apprentices has clearly paid off as we have a highly trained, skilled and loyal workforce which understands the business. Apprentices are a great benefit to firms, particularly SMEs. The apprentices we have taken on show real motivation and a desire to do well. Throughout our 40 years in business it has definitely proved better to ‘grow our own’ staff and be involved in their training from the start."