THE scourge of youth unemployment in Burnley is being tackled by an apprenticeship scheme which this year will give up to 100 young people the vital first step on the ladder to work.
Plumbers, joiners and painters and decorators of the future can now sign up to the Calico-managed scheme which has been so successful since it was set up two years ago, it will now be rolled out across the country to tackle the growing problem.
Constructing the Future Lancashire, run by Lancashire Housing Partnership since 2010, of which Burnley social landlord Calico is a key partner, offers long-term apprenticeships for young people on various building projects.
And this week, Burnley hosted an event where more than 30 social housing landlords signed up to the National Housing Federation’s North West Apprenticeship Commitment.
In Burnley itself, the scheme is gathering pace year on year with Calico employing more than 20 apprentices and looking to recruit another 50 young people before Christmas, and more next year.
Mr Stuart Graham, Calico’s apprenticeship programme manager, said the scheme was a vital boost to young people and was helping to tackle the area’s high youth unemployment.
He added: “This has been a massive success. We had 30 people in Burnley complete their apprenticeships this year, of whom 75% have secured employment.
“The advantage is that it gives the apprentices broader experience by working on more than one contract.
“We provide and manage the apprentices on behalf of lots of different contractors.”
One apprentice who is benefiting from the scheme is Padiham’s 20-year-old Lucy Hill.
Lucy, who is working on various projects around Burnley, Pendle and the Ribble Valley, is also studying painting and decorating at Burnley College where she heard about the scheme.
She said: “Being unemployed knocked my confidence. I applied for more than 25 jobs and was told I wasn’t even qualified to be a cleaner. I was really happy when I got my apprenticeship – I live with my parents in a Calico property.
“Painting and decorating is quite a male-dominated profession, but there are a lot more girls doing it now. Eventually I’d like to set up my own business and maybe even take on apprentices myself.”
Lucy was to chat to politicians and housing bosses about her experiences at the launch of the event at Burnley Football Club today.
Housing associations will create 435 new apprenticeships this year across the North-West. The pledge will see housing associations committing to up to 5% of their workforces becoming apprentices by the end of March next year.
Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle, who chairs a Parliamentary group to promote apprenticeships, said: “I am delighted housing associations, including Calico Homes, are working hard to train up the next generation of skilled employees who can contribute to East Lancashire’s economy.
“The National Housing Federation initiative is part of an encouraging trend to reverse the major decline in the number of apprenticeships in the building industry over the past 20 years.”
To find out more about the apprenticeships call Jane Smith at Calico on 686310.