UK leather and footwear manufacturers interested in encouraging young people into the industry are being urged to get involved with a Young Apprenticeship pilot scheme, to be launched in September 2005. In general, Young Apprenticeships are new qualifications, which allow pupils aged 14-16 to learn a vocation whilst still at school, rather than studying purely academic qualifications. They are aimed at pupils of all abilities – including the brightest and most able young people.

The Young Apprenticeship in footwear and leather manufacture is being developed by Skillfast-UK, the Sector Skills Council for apparel, footwear and textiles, in response to employers’ concerns that not enough young people with appropriate skills and abilities are attracted to the footwear and leather sectors for a career. Employers who sign up to take part in the pilot will have to provide 50 days of on-the-job work experience for one or more pupils over a two-year period. During this time, a pupil will study units from the relevant NVQ Level 2, as selected by the employer. In order to gain their Young Apprenticeship, the pupil will also undertake a GCSE in manufacturing at school, and a technical certificate at a local Further Education college.

The scheme is being piloted in Northamptonshire and Skillfast-UK hopes that up to 10 employers and 30 young people will be involved. If successful, the qualification could roll-out to other parts of the UK in 2006. Chas Hubbard, director of workforce development at Skillfast-UK said: ‘Employers often tell us that the industry needs to do more to boost the number of young people coming into the sector, and this is one way of doing that – with the support of the pupil’s school and college.’

Employers who want to get involved with the scheme can contact Ron James at Skillfast-UK on 0870 120 6107 for an explanatory brochure and discussion.