As part of National Apprenticeship Week, Bradford District has announced a major milestone met by passing 537 apprenticeship starts, a target it was set by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS).

The target has been reached after collaboration between the Council, Bradford College and a number of other partners who have worked together to share information and best practice.

Bradford’s Apprenticeship Training Agency (ATA), which was launched in May 2013, has played a major part in this success. The ATA is run by the Council and Bradford College and acts as a recruitment agency. It seeks out organisations that are able to employ apprentices.

The ATA actively targets micro-businesses who have not previously taken on an apprentice. This approach provides the opportunity to grow apprenticeships in businesses, helping to develop their workforce and also to reduce youth unemployment.

The ATA works alongside Bradford’s Apprenticeship Hub which raises the profile of apprenticeships to increase their take up. It acts as a single point of contact providing independent advice to businesses who want information on apprenticeships. It also works to promote apprenticeships to schools, young people and parents.

The funding allocated to Bradford for the ATA and Apprenticeship Hub was £958,128. This funding was part of a wider grant of £4.6 million allocated to the Leeds City Region from BIS under a scheme called the Cities Deal “Skills Ask”. The programme has created 2,300 apprenticeship starts across the Leeds City Region.

A cornerstone of the success has been the involvement of apprenticeship ambassadors. More than 20 young people aged 16 to 24 have taken on ambassador roles. This has involved going in to schools and to events and explaining to other young people what an apprenticeship actually involves.

Bethany Townsend qualified as an Apprentice and now works for Bradford Council. She received the Council’s Apprentice of the Year award in 2015 along with fellow apprentice Reece Butler and is also an apprenticeship ambassador. Bethany Townsend said: “Being an apprenticeship ambassador is a fantastic experience.I got so much from my apprenticeship and I wanted to share that with other students who are looking at taking up an apprenticeship. I gained confidence as well as new skills; and as an apprentice, you get paid!”

Coun Susan Hinchcliffe, Portfolio Holder for Education, Skills and Culture and Chair of the Apprenticeship Training Agency Board, said: “It’s fantastic news that we’ve passed this milestone and created so many apprenticeship starts for business and young people. I want to thank all the partners and our apprenticeship ambassadors who have made this happen.

“Apprenticeships can offer so much to businesses and the young people they take on, many of whom stay with the same employer and prosper. They have an important role to play in the district’s economic development and with our plans to Get Bradford Working.”