The Duke of York has given his ‘seal of approval’ to a scheme aiming to tackle youth unemployment in the West Midlands.
The Express & Star, which is currently Britain’s largest regional newspaper, has recently launched a new apprenticeship scheme known as “Ladder for the Black Country” with the aim of creating at least 500 new apprenticeships in the region.
Although youth unemployment figures in the UK are falling, the Office for National Statistics says there are still 747,000 young people aged 16 to 24 who are unemployed across the country, and the Midlands accounts for over 8,000 of these.
The Duke was invited to become Patron of the scheme on its launch earlier this month, and accepted saying that it was a “local solution” to a national youth unemployment issue and that the Black Country is the ‘bedrock’ of British manufacturing.
Visiting the paper’s headquarters in Wolverhampton last Wednesday, the Prince met with young people looking for apprenticeships along with the five new apprentices who have started working with the Express & Star.
He met the vast team behind the Ladder for the Black Country Project including the Chief Executive of the Walsall-based charity, the Vine Trust, Kevin Davis; Rob Colbourne of training provider Performance Through People; the Black Country Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive, Margaret Corneby; Keith Harrison and Diane Davies, Editor and Deputy Editor of the Express & Star, respectively and Simon Neilson of Walsall Council.
Prince Andrew, who is an ardent supporter of apprenticeships, has been actively involved in creating new opportunities for young people including his iDEA initiative, which aims to help young people develop their digital skills. On his visit, he spoke about how young peoples’ parents are the key to success with apprenticeships:
“The most important people are the parents of young people. They need to be engaged and recognise that the apprenticeship path might make a difference. It is their young people and their children and it could be the only thing they can do to change their lives – to give them a good education and prepare them for life after school.
“The parents are very important.”
Speaking to the Express & Star, the Duke also spoke about his own experiences with not going to university, instead choosing to train as a helicopter pilot in the Royal Navy:
“I had never thought about it like that but yes, when I decided not to go to university, I decided to join the Royal Navy immediately and my flying training was an apprenticeship in another form because it was a skill. Actually, it is quite an expensive skill to learn.
“I enjoyed it, and I never missed not going to university.
“There have been a number of opportunities to go to university since but unfortunately because of the shoes I walk in I haven’t the time to do it because I am doing things like this which is encouraging other people.
“But though I did not realise it at the time, it was very much like serving an apprenticeship.”
Since the launch of the scheme, there have been over 100 apprenticeship inquiries from young people and 18 expressions of interest from companies. The dedicated Ladder for the Black Country website has also had more than 2,000 hits. On average, 14 new roles have been created each day since the campaign was launched.
When the London Evening Standard launched a similar scheme, Ladder for London, in November 2012, the Duke also agreed to become their Patron. As a result of the scheme, 1,300 new Apprenticeships were created across the capital.
Image Credit: The Duke of York’s Office