BASINGSTOKE is leading the way in apprenticeships with more people choosing this style of learning.

In the run-up to National Apprenticeship Week in March, The Gazette will put the spotlight on apprenticeships, showcasing the various opportunities across the borough at different businesses and highlighting the successes of individuals.

An apprenticeship is a genuine job, combining practical training alongside study.

Apprentices work with experienced staff, gaining job-specific skills, earning a wage and are given time for study related to the role as the equivalent of one day a week.

Qualifications range from Level 2 (GCSE) to 7 (degree) and statistics show that apprentices reaching a higher level could earn £150,000 more on average over their lifetime compared to those with Level 3 qualifications, while those achieving a Level 2 or 3 apprenticeship boosts earnings by 11 per cent and 16 per cent respectively.

At Basingstoke College of Technology, September saw the highest intake of apprentices for the last five years.

Lorraine Heath, deputy principle – business, at the Worting Road college, said: “In terms of the benefits it gives you, the opportunity to learn the theory and take it into the environment in the work place and use it.

“It could be an opportunity to gain a degree qualification without the debt.”

There are a wide variety of apprenticeships on offer through the college from engineering to hairdressing, with more than 60 different subjects.

Lorraine said apprenticeships are increasing in popularity, adding: “Over the last year they have become more popular with younger people.

"We get more applications for apprenticeships each year from school leavers or college students. There’s lots of interest particularly in engineering and construction.”

For employers taking on an apprentice, Lorraine said they can train an individual exactly as they want, to benefit the company, adding: “Every work place is different. You can go to college, but every work place has different ways of doing things. An employer can really get what they need from an apprentice.”

BCoT is holding an apprenticeship fair on March 11 as part of National Apprenticeship Week – an annual occasion which has become one of the biggest recruitment events in the south of England.

Employers recruit at the fair and those interested in securing an apprenticeship are encouraged to come prepared with their CV.

However, Lorraine said the town still needs more employers to accept apprentices, as there are not enough positions to meet demand.

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council is helping to meet the increased demand and was recently named as one of the top 20 councils to meet the government’s public sector apprenticeship target in 2017/18.

A total of 19 people started apprenticeships at the council during 2017/18, including seven new apprentices specialising in customer services, housing, project management, human resources, democratic services and corporate communications.

A further 12 staff members undertook apprenticeship courses to enhance their skills.

The council exceeded the Local Government Association national apprenticeship target of 2.3 per cent new starts in a year and is one of only 34 councils out of 299 authorities across the country which met the target, achieving 2.7 per cent, placing it 19th in the league table.

Councillor Clive Sanders, leader of the borough council, said: “We are delighted at the government’s latest league table results and proud to offer fantastic apprenticeship opportunities as part of our commitment to supporting local people into work.

“An apprenticeship can be the right option for those who want a fulfilling career without going to university – it’s an excellent way to earn while you learn and enjoy extra benefits, such as leave entitlement, offered to all our members of staff.

“While our apprentices gain experience and a qualification, they also make a valuable contribution to the work of the council.”

Amy Hawkins, the council’s corporate communications apprentice, said: “I would definitely recommend an apprenticeship to anybody who likes a hands-on approach.

“Doing an apprenticeship lets you see first-hand how an organisation operates. You get to earn while you learn, and it increases your confidence in the workplace.”