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The Duke of York hammered home the virtues of apprenticeships by telling businesses that hiring a good young person will allow them to grow.
He pulled no punches in a frank discussion with businesses at Maidstone Museum as part of a visit to support the Kick Start Kent campaign.
He left business leaders with no doubt about the importance of apprenticeships for succession planning, to enable companies to continue to be successful in the future.
In a private meeting with top brass from Kent’s leading training providers, colleges and business organisations, he raised concerns that the message was not getting through to firms.
He then went on to meet bosses from companies across the county at a reception in the museum’s cafe, and heard success stories from businesses and apprentices alike.
“I believe there are national problems but in many cases there are local solutions,” said the Duke of York in an exclusive interview with the KM Group.
“I think the picture is improving. There are more opportunities around because the conditions have changed in the economy.
“The question is: can we produce more small businesses who want to grow? The way to grow is by taking on an extra apprentice.”
The former Royal Navy helicopter pilot, who did not go to university, accepted there were things that need to happen to encourage employers to take on apprentices.
“Mitigation of employment risk is one of them,” he said.
“I’m also fairly sure that mentoring the apprentice and allowing the business to get on with what it’s doing will also help, and allowing the business and the apprentice to integrate themselves over a period of time.
“The other thing is businesses need to understand that it’s a benefit to them because they will be in a position to grow.
“The conditions are now just about right for businesses to start thinking about growing rather than just surviving.
“We are only talking about one apprentice per business but by having an extra pair of hands and an extra mind it will mean that a business can grow in a sustainable fashion after giving a little bit of time and a little bit of training and education.”
A huge advocate of vocational training and a champion of apprenticeships, the Duke accepts some responsibility lies with young people who want to work.
He said: “They need determination and to recognise that it is only down to one’s own aspiration that means you are going to have an opportunity to take that apprenticeship on yourself.
“You need to aspire to be more than you are and I can guarantee that most will have that aspiration but don’t know how to apply it or communicate it.
“The opportunity of going into an apprenticeship is one way of doing it.”
The Duke also offered young people a word of advice about the daunting task of choosing their career path.
He said: “Remember as a young person that an apprenticeship is not an end but it is the start of a career journey which may take you to a number of different businesses and opportunities.
“It may take you to university and it may take you overseas. It may take you to all sorts of places. It may lead to you becoming a chief executive
or the owner of your own business.
“This is the start of a lifelong process.”
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