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Kick Start Kent apprenticeship campaign finds work for 75 young people at 51 companies putting it halfway to final goal

By Chris Price

For salon equipment supplier PJS Direct, hiring apprentice Jordan Jennings through the Kick Start Kent campaign has been a revelation.

“He’s not just making cups of tea,” said Paul Mattes, owner and managing director of the three-year old small business based in Rochester.

“He’s getting stuck in. We hope to offer him full-time employment in February and I’d like to see if we can get another apprentice on board by the end of this year.”

Jordan Jennings, who works as an apprentice at Rochester-based PJS Direct

The Kick Start Kent campaign was launched by the KM Group with the aim of getting 100 businesses to hire an apprentice within a year.

This month, the initiative signed up its 51st company, with 75 young people now in work with them.

One campaign partner, MidKent College, has 108 apprenticeship vacancies live with 86 different employers and is advertising or interviewing for another 42 positions for 32 employers.

It looks like the campaign will smash its target before the end of October, which is little surprise to Mr Mattes.

The impact of training can lift annual budgets by 2% to 3%

“It’s a smooth system, which is fast and easy,” he said. “The college handled the interview process for us.

“It is very hard to bring someone in on a proper salary, even if it’s minimum wage, because after three or four months they might say it is not for them and leave.

“That is demoralising when you are a small business because the time you take to train them is very important.

“With an apprentice you get a 12-month trial and after six months you know if you want to keep them, and they know if they want to stay.

“It is a good learning curve, which is risk-free for the apprentice and for us.”

To join the KM Group's Kick Start Kent campaign, email kickstartkent@thekmgroup.co.uk

The KM Group has supported apprenticeships with its Big Kent Apprenticeship Directory in June, which listed vacancies and carried information from scores of providers and colleges across the county. There are plans to run another by the end of the year.

The company will also be putting apprenticeships in the spotlight in our Education Supplement out next month.

MidKent College head of business services Jacqui Brown said: “The KM have been raising awareness and we ran the Big Kent Apprenticeship Directory through their titles earlier this year.

“Every conversation we have with employers seems to be about apprenticeships..." - MidKent College's Jacqui Brown

“Every conversation we have with employers seems to be about apprenticeships.

“I’m really happy with the success of the campaign.

“We have exceeded our personal target for students and still have all these vacancies.

“I have never known us to have these numbers before. Over the last three months the numbers have doubled.

“In theory we could double our Kick Start Kent target for the whole of this year.”

She added: “There has been an economic change with more buildings being constructed, so there is more opportunity for recruitment.

“We will exceed the target, no doubt, by the end of October.”

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