As the region’s businesses deal with increased costs, Assistant Principal at Newcastle College, Lisa Hoseason, wants to remind employers of the value that apprenticeships can have, even during economic challenges.

As the region that suffered the worst decline in apprenticeship starts since 2018-19, the positive news is that the North East is starting to recover. The latest government figures show that apprenticeship starts in the North East rose by 14 per cent last year, however, this is still 15 per cent lower than pre-lockdown levels.

During National Apprenticeship Week (#NAW2023) (6th – 12th February 2023), which is themed this year on ‘Skills for Life’, the focus is on how apprenticeships can help individuals develop the skills and knowledge needed for a rewarding career and how they can help businesses develop a skilled workforce. Newcastle College wants to shine a light on the work they do with local employers to help them access this pipeline of talent.

Lisa said: “It’s really encouraging to see that apprenticeship starts are on the rise again and we want to see this trend continue in spite of the economic challenges.

“During the pandemic, apprenticeship starts plummeted, and we really don’t want to see that happen again. We can’t lose focus on apprenticeships during the cost-of-living crisis, and we want to show businesses how positive apprenticeships can be.”

The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) reports that 96 per cent of employers that take on an apprentice see benefits to their business and 72 per cent of businesses report improved productivity as a result of employing an apprentice. Data from NAS also shows that apprentices are loyal employees, with 90 per cent of apprentices staying on after completing their apprenticeship.

In the North East, fabrication solutions specialists WD Close and Sons is reaping the benefits of apprenticeships through its flourishing partnership with Newcastle College.

Kelly Scott, Operations Director at WD Close and Sons said: “We started working with Newcastle College in 2021 and since then, our partnership has meant we’ve employed more than 40 apprentices. The college has been really flexible in listening to our business needs and supporting us to manage skills needs. Apprentices develop a deep understanding of their trade and where they work and we see the rewards of that, that’s why we are committed to taking on and training 100 apprentices over the next five years.”

The partnership has also had award-winning results as Courtney Newton, WD Close and Sons first female apprentice, was named ‘apprentice of the year’ by the welding institute in 2022.

Lisa added: “National Apprenticeship Week is a great opportunity to remind businesses of the benefits of apprenticeships and help them to understand the processes around apprenticeships which can be quite complex. It’s important that educators are reaching out to and exploring those opportunities with them.

“At Newcastle College, we take a rounded approach to apprenticeships, recognising the importance of both employer partnerships and aligning our apprenticeship programs with the local enterprise partnership (LEP) to meet the needs of the North East region. As part of our strategy to 2030, we want to make sure that we’re fulfilling those local needs with what we offer and support the region’s employability, and sharing those positive stories, which is what National Apprenticeship Week is all about.”

Newcastle College is also celebrating the achievements of apprentices at its annual Apprenticeship Awards event, held on Friday 10th February. To find out more about apprenticeships at Newcastle College, visit Apprenticeships (