School leavers used to face the dilemma of getting a job or pursuing their education. Both had benefits; employment meant a salary and experience while education generated qualifications to increase career options. But in recent years students have been given a third option – the chance to earn while they learn with on-the-job training through an apprenticeship.
Bicester’s expansion provides an ideal opportunity to promote careers in construction where there is a current shortage of skilled workers. In 2014/2015 figures from Oxfordshire Apprenticeships showed 2,182 apprenticeships were started in the county, but only 150 were in construction. In its unique position as a planning authority, landowner and employer, Cherwell District Council is working to promote apprenticeship opportunities in these and other areas by supporting the delivery of three key projects:
North West Bicester
The delivery of 6,000 zero carbon homes and associated amenities at North West Bicester provides scope for construction apprenticeships across numerous industries ranging from builders and carpenters to electricians and plumbers. To date, developer A2Dominion has already created five apprenticeships as part of the phase one Exemplar development. However, with a long term project to complete the site, Cherwell District Council has designed a scheme which could deliver at least 300 apprenticeship opportunities during the site’s construction.
The project is supported by local colleges, the Construction Industry Training Board and Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP), Oxfordshire County Council and Oxfordshire Apprenticeships. To support the plan, work is under way to establish an Apprenticeship Training Agency as a not-for-profit organisation that will lead the delivery of the programme and this has been supported with a grant of £50,000 from OxLEP.
Cherwell’s award-winning Build! scheme is not just transforming redundant sites into affordable housing; it is also creating apprenticeship opportunities. A £50,000 joint funding project between Cherwell and OxLep has created eight site carpentry apprenticeships for 16 – 23 year olds who have been hired to work exclusively on the council’s Build! sites. The grant covers all of the apprentices’ costs including salary, management and personal protective equipment as well as providing each apprentice with a full set of tools and return journeys to work. The team are led by Kidlington-based firm ABC (Oxford) Limited and by the end of 2015, the team will be on course to complete their training and Level Two Carpentry apprenticeship qualification.