Tyne & Wear

Cumbria's jobless snub apprentice schemes

Image caption A year ago Mr Dixon was drinking and smoking heavily now he had turned his life around

Almost 3,000 young people are out-of-work in Cumbria, but one Carlisle recruitment company is struggling to fill apprenticeship places.

RWP Training said it had 30 trainee vacancies available in a whole host of professions including hairdressing and childminding, but there had not been a single applicant.

A year ago Nathan Dixon was living in a homeless hostel, downing a bottle of cider and smoking 50 cigarettes a day.

The 19-year-old could barely drag himself out of bed due to lack of motivation and self-esteem, because as he puts it: "I'd been rejected so many times for jobs I wasn't even fit to serve burgers".

But after a chance meeting with a careers advisor, the 19-year-old applied for three apprenticeships with Cumbria County Council and was offered one with the library service in business administration.

On Monday, Mr Dixon, of Maryport, begins a full-time, permanent job with the council's human resources department.

And he said drinking is now strictly kept for the weekends, and in moderation.

'A structured life'

Mr Dixon said: "This time last year I was alcohol dependant and smoking quite heavily and I thought 'I need to change my life'.

"I was speaking to a careers advisor and went online and saw three apprenticeships advertised with the county council. I applied for them all and, low and behold, I got it.

"At the moment I am a business administration apprentice - the desk job side of things means dealing with general inquiries, I also work in the libraries.

Image caption Recruits can sign up for a host of professions including firefighters

"This has drastically changed my life - I now have a regular working pattern and have kept the job in hand. I'm also due to start a new job.

"I've got my own flat and have a focused, structured life."

Mr Dixon believes many people are put off signing up because of the low pay.

"The pay isn't that great but you are learning skills while working compared to students at university who are just learning or getting experience," he said.

"I was quite taken aback that people weren't applying for apprenticeships - if they want jobs they must apply. They don't always lead to jobs but they do give you skills that are transferable.

"People need to weigh up the pros and cons."

Richard Polyblanc, chief executive, of RWP Training, said he believed the rural location of some of the vacancies was putting would-be workers off.

The national minimum wage for apprentices is £2.60 per hour, but many will earn £170 net pay per week after a while in the job, according to the government apprenticeship information website.

He said: "We've got a teaching assistant vacancy in Patterdale and getting young people to travel there is quite difficult. It is often to do with geography finding someone to travel a few miles from their home to a village.

'Basic stepping stone'

"Also the wage is low and if you have travel costs on top of that it is questionable whether it is viable. But this can be overcome with people sharing lifts or having parents drop them off.

"We need to change the mindsets of young people so they can see the benefits. Apprenticeships last one possibly two years, so it is not a long time.

"They are a basic stepping stone while developing careers."

Image caption The cost of travel is putting many people in rural areas off, RWP said

Moira Tattersall, principal at Carlisle College, lines students up with work placements and apprenticeships.

She refutes the allegation that young jobseekers are "lazy" and work-shy.

She said: "I've got a college full of very, very ambitious young people.

"They are committed, they want to invest in their future so this stereotype of young lazy people is just not something I recognise."

She said the college also worked with a lot of young people with "baggage" and whose lives had been "interrupted by problems".

She added: "Some young people have had their education knocked off track, but we've got a good reputation of getting people back on track."

Last year Cumbria County Council launched a scheme to get 100 young people on apprenticeship schemes.

Of those 100 new recruits, almost a half are due to finish their placements this year and nearly a quarter have managed to find full-time work thanks to their newly acquired skills.

A spokesman for the council said: "An apprenticeship is a real job with training so you can earn while you learn and pick up recognised qualifications as you go."

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