Leeds was paid a royal visit earlier this week, as His Royal Highness The Duke of York arrived in the city to promote National Apprenticeship Week.
Small and medium sized businesses across Leeds City Region have been urged to take on an apprentice as part of a new campaign which was officially launched at the Royal Armouries on the 4th March.
The Duke unveiled the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Apprenticeship Challenge during his speech to 200 SMEs and old his audience that they have the power to inspire young people by giving them a chance to develop and take pride in a skill.
He said that young people cannot gain experience and work skills if businesses are not prepared to offer that opportunity in the first place, and challenged employers to take on an apprentice, and remove the specification on job advertisements for previous experience as a necessity.
His Royal Highness acknowledged there are risks for businesses but said that the support being offered across Leeds City Region is helping to mitigate those.
The Duke said: “An apprenticeship is the start of the beginning of a career. I hope that the Leeds City Region Challenge can be fulfilled and that the momentum that has already started will continue.”
Employers were urged to sign pledge cards showing their commitment to find out more about the campaign which aims to secure at least 1,000 SMEs offering apprenticeships from April 2014 to March 2015.
Guests found out about the free and independent advice available from the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership Apprenticeship Hubs which are based across ten local authority areas to make it easier for SMEs to recruit apprentices.
Roger Marsh, Chair of Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, said: “We are delighted the Duke of York acknowledged the hard work of all our partners in providing the opportunities our young people need to build a career for the future.
“The LEP is committed to maintaining this momentum. We will work with businesses to step up to the Apprenticeship Challenge and offer our young people the opportunities they need to develop their skills and gain vital work experience.”
Meanwhile, His Royal Highness also visited the Leeds College of Building’s Stourton site, where he met apprentices, students and local dignitaries, toured the main construction workshop and unveiled a commemorative plaque.
Ian Billyard, Principal of Leeds College of Building, said: “We are delighted that His Royal Highness could join us. The Duke has a passion for apprenticeships and the construction and engineering sector, and that clearly showed when he was speaking with our apprentices, students and staff.”
Following that engagement, The Duke moved on to officially open Leeds City College’s new £26 million Printworks campus, on Hunslet Road, completed in September 2013.
His Royal Highness spoke with hospitality, catering, bakery and butchery apprentices and students, and led a business lunch and debate with the LEP Board at the college’s Food Academy restaurant, to discuss LEP priorities for the region.
The Duke’s official visit of Leeds concluded at Leeds Civic Hall where a Leeds Apprenticeship Awards ceremony was held.
The awards recognise the outstanding contribution apprentices make to the city, and the employers who train them. The panel of judges included representatives from Leeds City Council, the National Apprenticeship Service, Leeds City College, and Leeds College of Building.