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Kick Start Kent campaign highlights how apprenticeships key to business survival during National Apprenticeship Week

06 March 2014
by Chris Price

Although they do not realise it, many companies in Kent are building up problems for the future.

As workforces age, businesses will face a succession planning crisis unless they invest in the next generation of employees now – apprenticeships are the way to do this.

The Duke of York feels so strongly about the matter he came to Maidstone to support the KM Group and its campaign to highlight the virtues of apprentices.

Darren Sweeting, of MKE Engineering in Sittingbourne, has used his apprenticeship to study for a degree

The Kick Start Kent initiative aims to get 100 businesses in the county to take on a young person through an apprenticeship, by highlighting the way they can help a firm grow and lay the foundations for future success.

The candidates are out there. The latest unemployment figures show 18 to 24-year-olds make up the largest proportion, more than a quarter, of all those who are out of work in Kent.

There are 6,000 of them claiming Jobseekers Allowance. That is 26.5% of all claimants in the county and an unemployment rate of 4.7% – the highest of any of the age groups.

The picture for young people is improving. The number of 18 to 24-year-olds on the dole in Kent is down 23.1% on a year ago.

Apprenticeship facts

- All apprentices must receive the appropriate national minimum wage: £2.68 for under 19s and first year apprentices, £5.03 for 19 to 20-year-olds and £6.31 for over 21s.

- After finishing, 85% of apprentices stay in work, with nearly two-thirds (64%) staying at the same employer.

- The average apprenticeship increases business productivity by £214 per week.

- Businesses employing less than 1,000 people, may get a £1,500 grant to help cover training costs of an apprentice aged 16 to 24.

Apprenticeships are a major driver of that. In Kent, 3,791 people aged 19 to 24 began an apprenticeship in the 2012/13 academic year, up 8.4% on 2011/12.

Yet that figure falls to 2,597 when looking at 16 to 18-year-olds, down 6.4% on the previous year.

That age group’s stats have no doubt been affected by the raising of the participation age in September, meaning pupils turning 17 after that date have to stay on in education or training for another year.

Join the Kick Start Kent campaign by emailing

To join the KM Group's Kick Start Kent campaign, email

Yet many young people, and employers, do not realise that an apprenticeship counts as a viable option for staying in training under these rules, putting them on a career path which could take them to university or company management.

The benefits for employers are undeniable. They get to mould the employee they want, paying the national minimum wage, and ensure they have a capable workforce to take over the reins when others retire or leave.

As a sweetener, companies with less than 1,000 workers could be eligible for a grant of £1,500 to take an apprentice on, which is payable up to 10 times before the initiative closes at the end of this year.

Some employers complain that many school leavers are not immediately equipped to enter the working world but new schemes are tackling those problems, like trainee-ships run by Kick Start Kent’s partners IPS International and other members of KATO, or the sponsors of our special apprenticeships supplement out this week, KT&A.

There are many ways to take on an apprentice, in all kinds of industries and vocations.

To find out more about hiring an apprentice, click here, or email

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