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Bacon joins Skills Minister in praising Saffron apprenticeship scheme

Richard Bacon MP and Skills Minister Matt Hancock (centre) with the Chair of Saffron Housing Trust Michael Harrowven (far left) and Saffron's apprentices. (Photo courtesy of Saffron Housing Trust).

South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon has joined Skills Minister Matthew Hancock on a visit to Saffron Housing Trust in Long Stratton to find out more about their innovative apprenticeship scheme.

Saffron’s scheme enables the fusion of small businesses and 20 young apprentices from the Diss area of South Norfolk.

Mr Bacon, a supporter of Saffron’s apprenticeship programme said: “I am delighted that the Minister is visiting Saffron Housing today to see how the Trust’s apprenticeship scheme is pioneering a new relationship between business, schools and the voluntary sector.”

The apprenticeship scheme was first discussed by Saffron’s Board in January 2011.. Under the scheme, Saffron will employ 20 young apprentices, who will then work with small businesses in South Norfolk, thus removing the paperwork and administration which often deters small businesses from taking this next step.  Saffron will continue to provide support and mentoring during the apprenticeship programme, drawing on their considerable experience with their ‘in-house’ apprentices as well as providing financial support to the scheme.

Mr Bacon added: “By taking on the administration of an apprenticeship, Saffron is freeing up local business from much of the day to day hassle involved in taking on an apprentice.  The Minister’s visit to Saffron is sending a powerful signal to local firms that this scheme means business”.

Stuart Tinkler, Assistant Director at Saffron Housing said: “We employ apprentices ourselves and know how important it is to grow tomorrow’s workforce but we also know how daunting it can be for local businesses to take on their first apprentice. We feel that both businesses and residents within our local community will benefit from this innovative scheme”.

It can be particularly challenging for young people to find employment opportunities within a rural community and Diss High School recognises that a range of routes into employment is required by its pupils. As the apprentices will be local to the Diss area their training, which will be provided by BCTS, will be delivered at the school’s facility. 

One of the first local businesses to express an interest is the award winning Pennoyer Centre in Pulham St Mary.  “We’re a social enterprise and still quite young” commented Sheila Moss-King, Chair of Trustees at The Pennoyer Centre “so taking on an additional staff member is a big step.  Because Saffron will help us to recruit the right young person and offer support, we feel this is a great opportunity for us.”

Stuart Tinkler of Saffron added “This Saffron scheme brings together several elements of the Saffron community and will help small businesses by providing an opportunity to pass on skills and knowledge whilst adding to their workforce.  By engaging with a school that already recognises the needs of this particular group and a training provider with considerable experience, we hope that Saffron can further help our community.”

On hearing more of the Saffron scheme and having the opportunity to meet some of Saffron’s existing apprentices, Skills Minister Matthew Hancock MP, said: “I am very much looking forward to seeing Saffron’s innovative approach to boosting apprenticeships in Diss and meeting some of the young people who are already benefiting from their in-house apprenticeship scheme.

“Apprenticeships help businesses to prosper and compete, while also giving young people the opportunity to carve out their career and gain invaluable skills and experience."

22 February 2013