Ivy Hughes, Lead - Employment, Enterprise and Training Services, discusses ForViva's approach to providing opportunities to young people considering an apprenticeship.

It’s that time of year again when a new crop of undergraduates are beginning their degrees at university in earnest.

But with the average debt of a student at graduation being around £50,000, it is no surprise that research shows more young people are considering an apprenticeship as an option when they leave school.

Apprentices can start earning from day one on the job while gaining a nationally recognised qualification which now goes up to a Level 7 Apprenticeship which is equivalent to degree level.

Apprenticeships provide a platform to a long-term career without the burden of a debt that will take years to pay off.

At ForViva we are committed to providing opportunities to young people and people of all ages, especially those facing barriers to education and employment.

We offer a range of apprenticeship and training opportunities across the business under our Bright Futures programme which has engaged with more than 180 people over the past year.

These range from placements within our back-office functions to three-year apprenticeships including construction skills, gas engineering and plumbing.

For example, our School Links programme in partnership with local secondary schools has given 42 pupils practical construction experience over the past two years and qualifications to help them get into work when they leave school.

The programme often provides a stepping stone to an apprenticeship.

This was the case for 16-year old Jess. Her skills and enthusiasm led to her being referred to become an apprentice joiner.

On completion of the two-year apprenticeship, which sees her attend Salford City College one day a week, Jess will have gained an NVQ Level 2 qualification in Carpentry and Joinery and can go on to study for Level 3.

Jess said: “I would definitely recommend an apprenticeship to anyone, you’re getting paid to learn.”

Last year we were proud to see three of our Fresh Living apprentices move into new homes they helped build during their apprenticeships. The Fresh Living project worked with people who without intensive advice and support would find it extremely difficult to secure work.

We are delighted that all three of the apprentices have now moved into long-term employment.

Mike is one of them. He said: “Fresh Living has given me the opportunity to get into a trade I can use in the future to earn money. It’s also given me the support to go in the right direction, something I may not have done without the programme.

“If it wasn’t for Fresh Living I wouldn’t have a job I liked and the opportunity to have my own home.”

ForViva Group member, Liberty, launched the Liberate Academy in Salford this year which offers first-class training opportunities and is set to offer apprenticeships in the near future.

The firm also created a new Apprentice and Training Team to boost its capacity to deliver apprenticeships, with apprentices now making up 10% of its 900-strong team across the UK.

Over the past nine years ForViva has created 608 employment or apprenticeship opportunities across the Group in a wide range of roles - from plumbing and bricklaying to finance and business administration.

Now as we look to the future, we are committed to exploring more ways to support the increasing numbers of young people looking for an alternative to university that still provides a springboard to a successful career.

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