Wiltshire apprenticeship target not reached

Apprentices There are currently 4,930 apprentices in Wiltshire

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A scheme to find and fill 100 apprenticeships in 100 days in Wiltshire has been extended because it is falling short of its target.

The campaign, run by Wiltshire College, was due to end on Friday but only 40 people have been matched with an apprenticeship so far.

In 2011 it reached 100 on the last day.

Tim Keeley, senior director of Wiltshire Enterprise, said: "Money is incredibly tight, it's very difficult for employers to make that commitment."

He said the economic climate had changed dramatically since the last campaign.

"I'm sure most employers by now are aware of the benefits of apprenticeships and how they can mould them into the culture of the company and they are a great benefit to every business," Mr Keeley said.

"It's just making that commitment to an added employee onto the establishment costs that employers are concerned about."

Lord Digby Jones, the UK's Business Ambassador, said employers currently "don't want to commit".

'Toe in water'

"They don't want to think 'if I take on this apprentice, in a year's time I might not be able to afford it, I might not be around...', and the default position is a negative position.

"In Wiltshire we have one or two iconic businesses that do stuff that exports.

"We've got to do more and more of that and a small business has got to put their toe in the water."

But Duncan Hames, the Liberal Democrat MP for Chippenham, said: "It could perhaps be because apprenticeships are not the only show in town this year.

"The government is launching the Youth Contract - £1bn to support work experience placements and subsidise jobs in the private sector for people who have been long term unemployed."

He said government figures showed there were currently 4,930 apprentices in Wiltshire.

"As much as I would like to continue the growth of apprenticeships at 63% a year, perhaps that's not a rate we're going to be able to sustain," he said.

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