News. People & Skills Projects - 27 August 2020

How an EU-funded Project is helping businesses find Apprentices

When Graeme Blakey needed a new apprentice for his joinery business Realm Projects, he reached out to GRADS for D2N2.

Graeme’s Mansfield-based commercial joinery specialist company are a 90-person operation that provides bespoke solutions to everything from retail to restaurant and corporate spaces.

Recruitment though has often proven a challenge as Graeme explained: “We haven’t always seen the level of applications we’d like from younger people, but it’s also difficult to recruit experienced people suited to the type of work we do, so for the past 16 years we’ve made apprentices a central part of our recruitment strategy.”

Through the support available from the GRADS for D2N2 project, The Nottingham Trent University Apprenticeships team conducted an office visit to undertake an organisational needs assessment and provide advice and information on the higher and degree apprenticeships offer.

Graeme said: “As an SME we often find that graduates or young people have the impression that they have to get experience or training with a really big company and don’t realise the wider opportunities that are available to them by joining a smaller business.”

“Many of our previous joinery apprentices have developed their career here and have progressed into technical drafting and project management roles, so there are lots of opportunities to progress.”

Grads for D2N2

18-year-old Sam joined Realm Projects in September 2019 as part of a 5-year apprenticeship.

“I first came across quantity surveyors while out with my dad, and it seemed interesting to me, said Sam. “I knew that it was a very detail-oriented job and that I was good at numbers and using information to make a conclusion, so started to look into it further.”

So far in his apprenticeship, Sam has had the opportunity to work on many different projects, including a complete re-fit of a Blues Kitchen, and sourcing some bespoke feline statues to sit outside the latest incarnation of The Kitty Cafe.

As part of Sam’s ongoing development, he has also been assigned a chartered builder colleague as a mentor who is helping expose him to other aspects of the construction industry.

For others that may be thinking about going down this route, Sam is clear on its benefits.

“I would very strongly recommend doing an apprenticeship. After completing my A-levels, I decided that I wanted to prioritise working over further study, but this is an opportunity to do both.”

“When working, you retain the information you learn a lot better as you can actually put it into practice.”

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European Social Fund

The GRADS for D2N2 programme aims to support Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire based SMEs, by offering a package of free and subsidised support that can help businesses identify their skills and talent needs, and benefit from graduate talent in the region.

The project is delivered by the High Level Skills consortium which includes Nottingham Trent University, Derby College, Nottingham College, the University of Derby and Nottingham City Council and part-funded by the European Social Fund (ESF).

Support available to SMEs includes organisations needs assessments, talent grants, graduate placements, Employability and Apprenticeship workshops, and curriculum co-design.

The ESF invests in people, with a focus on improving employment and education opportunities across the European Union.

It also aims to improve the situation of the most vulnerable people at risk of poverty.

The ESF provision in the D2N2 region contributes to local growth by increasing labour market participation, promoting social inclusion, and developing the skills of the potential and existing workforce.

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