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Eastbourne & Willingdon Lib Dems

The Value of Apprenticeships

May 13, 2014 3:33 PM

White collar apprenticeships are finally receiving deserved recognition as a route into the workplace for many young adults. Stephen Webb, Minister of State for Pensions, and Stephen Lloyd MP visited LMDB Accountants in Eastbourne last week (7 May) to see how the accountancy firm is leading the way in successful apprenticeships with students from Sussex Downs College.

The Minister and Mr Lloyd were introduced to LMDB director Steven Diomedou and his three apprentices. On his visit, Mr Webb heard about AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) opportunities available through the college, providing students with the skillset required for a successful future career.

Stephen Lloyd's advert for the apprenticeship campaign, 100 Apprentices in 100 Days, first caught Mr Diomedou's attention. Now, Mr Diomedou's reasons for investing in young apprentices are twofold: it's funded, and students have a mentor outside of the company. The liaison between the firm and Sussex Downs College makes for a stable and happy working relationship. Apprenticeships are beneficial to the students, the college and the employer. As a result, the local economy benefits too.

Mr Diomedou says: "Apprenticeships are a better way to recruit. One, the apprentices learn your way of working; two, you've mentored them, and three, anyone can write a nice CV - it's only when you get them in that you really know their work ethic."

Despite an increased awareness of white collar apprenticeship opportunities, Mr Lloyd is keen to promote them further. This was the purpose of the Minister's recent visit. The Minister of State for Pensions, whose work predominantly focuses on the latter years of a person's employment, was intrigued to see how people's early years of employment can shape their future plans. The Minister explained the government's auto-enrolment pension scheme, NEST (National Employment Savings Trust) to the students.

Mr Lloyd says: "The introduction of NEST means apprentices like LMDB's, in 30-40 years' time, have a better chance of a half decent pension that millions of people currently don't have.

"I'm proud to work very closely with Sussex Downs College, right from the beginning, when I launched 100 Apprentices in 100 Days. We've since launched 3000 apprenticeships in Eastbourne - which is more than the previous seven years put together. I think white collar apprenticeships are going to see a huge explosion in the next year."

Mr Diomedou's three apprentices: Ryan Maslin, Hannah Barnato-Ludbrook and Shannen Scott, spoke to Mr Webb and Mr Lloyd about their time at LMDB to date.

Miss Scott says: "It was during my second year at college that AAT for 16-19 year olds was introduced. When I was studying AAT in my first year I wasn't actually working as I was studying for my A Levels as well. Now, doing it on the job makes things much easier to understand."

Miss Barnato-Ludbrook adds: "I studied Biology, Sport and Sociology at A Level. I did look at going to university, perhaps doing a Sports Science degree. Instead I stayed for a third year studying Business and took on the AAT. It's great because you can take back to the course what you've learnt at work."

For many young adults, apprenticeships are an increasingly attractive route into the workplace, as opposed to a university degree, as there are no tuition fees involved. Mr Lloyd looks at the evidence of apprenticeships benefitting everyone involved. He says: "90% of those in apprenticeships then go into employment with that employer. There's no other government scheme since the beginning of time that has hit that conversion rate. Eastbourne and Sussex Downs College is leading the way. It enables others in a similar field to realise the benefits of apprentices."

Sally Bromley, Head of Park College, whose team organises the mentors for the apprentices, comments: "Apprenticeships are increasingly a really positive choice. We've got more students opting to do apprenticeships because we're offering the AAT at levels two three and four. Combined with A-Levels in subjects like Accounting and Maths, students are choosing to do an apprenticeship and take that route into a profession."

Learning while earning has taken centre stage in Eastbourne, particularly at LMDB Accountants, where Mr Diomedou is now thinking about taking on a fourth apprentice. He says: "At LMDB we depend on our team to help us deliver our services to our clients. Not only today, but also for the future. Apprenticeships are a great way for us to help develop talented young individuals into the experts we need tomorrow."