In our latest Spotlight On feature Leanne Fawcett chats to Hartlepool College of Further Education Principal Darren Hankey about the importance of apprenticeships and what the college is doing to support talented young people into employment.

Tell us more about the college’s apprenticeship programme.

Apprenticeships are such an important part of the college’s offering and are something we’re very good at it.

We have around 800 apprentices attending the college, some of whom are full time and some who are on day release from the many regional businesses we support, including NSK Bearings, AKS Precision Ball, Altec Engineering, Nissan, Gestamp and Unipres.

We’re very proud of them all and cannot emphasise enough just how important apprenticeships are, not only to the young people who undertake them but also to the employers who offer them.

You’ve received national recognition for your apprenticeship offering, haven’t you?

Yes, in the spring of 2016 we were awarded a ‘Very Good’ rating from Ofsted which is testament to the investment we put into the programme and the commitment of our staff to providing the best education and training to our apprentices.

We’ve also been shortlisted in the Times Education Supplement, which is such prestigious list to feature in. Although we didn’t win, the honour of being recognised and making the shortlist was fantastic for everyone at the college.

The college has an impressive track record when it comes to apprentices securing work doesn’t it?

Yes, around 90 per cent of the people who come through our apprenticeship programme go on to full time employment. The national average is 60 per cent so that shows just how successful we are.

We cannot stress enough, apprenticeships are the ideal way to earn while you learn and are a proven platform to long term career success.

Has the apprenticeship levy affected things for you?

Not at all. Nationally there has been a decline in apprenticeship activity since the levy came into force, however we have not seen that and in fact our intake has gone up.

Everyone at the college is looking ahead to what we hope will be a fantastic 2019, supporting even more young people through their apprenticeships and into employment.

The attitude towards apprenticeships has changed massively hasn’t it?

Absolutely yes, they’re now very highly regarded and seen as the perfect way to learn, earn and at the end of the course, offer apprentices every opportunity to move into a fully-fledged job.

The competition for them is vast too – some of the companies we work with can advertise an apprenticeship opportunity and be inundated with applications, all from people who are choosing to go down that route.

It means from an employer perspective, they are able to pick and choose the very best people to invest in to support their talent attraction programme and ensure they have the right staff coming through to replace their experienced personnel when they retire.

Apprenticeships can also lead to HNC/HND qualifications and from there they can top up to a bachelors’ degree, so from a personal development point of view, are incredibly attractive.

There’s still work to do though isn’t there?

Yes, there is. Currently, only one in five employers take on apprentices which isn’t high enough – we need to work towards that being five in five.

We appreciate not every business can take on apprentices, however those that can need to be educated to the benefits that apprentices can offer their business, both in the short and long term.

For more information visit the Hartlepool FE website.