I want to increase the number of apprenticeships in North Yorkshire.
And if successful, my new North Yorks Apprenticeships scheme could become a blueprint for the rest of the UK.
A pilot project is being launched with secondary schools, colleges, councils and employers to boost the image of the existing apprenticeship scheme which combines work with formal learning.
Key to the initiative is the support of UCAS – the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service – which has agreed to set up an online portal under the UCAS brand to make it easy for businesses to advertise apprenticeships and for young people to find and apply for them.
I have also written to almost 1,000 businesses in the constituency urging them to consider taking on an apprentice and will set an example by taking on a young person to work in my Northallerton office.
I want our young people to have great opportunities when they leave school. I also want our local businesses and organisations to have ready access to the best young talent.
That’s why I have persuaded UCAS to create this one-stop shop to bring the two together. The North Yorks Apprenticeships website makes it easy for businesses to find apprentices and makes it easy for young people to find them.
This is a first for North Yorkshire. Nowhere else in the UK will have this facility. It is being watched closely and if we can make it a success, it could be replicated elsewhere.
It is a great time to take on an apprentice. For school leavers, the Government will pay for all training costs and for small and medium-sized businesses a £1,500 grant is payable for each apprentice taken on.
The involvement of UCAS is very important. For too long apprenticeships have been seen as an inferior qualification. That’s completely wrong. Using the UCAS brand will help bridge the divide between those applying for university and those looking to earn while they learn in an apprenticeship.
The pilot project has been welcomed by Business and Skills Minister Nick Boles who told me in the Commons that his department would monitor its progress and consider rolling it out to the rest of the UK.
North Yorkshire Apprenticeships will be formally launched next month and has the support of all local secondary schools and further education colleges including Darlington, York and Redcar and Cleveland.
The principal of Darlington College, Kate Roe, told me: "We welcome every opportunity to encourage local employers and young people to gain access to apprenticeships. The benefits to both are enormous and an online portal for North Yorkshire is a great initiative."
The three local authorities covering the constituency, Hambleton and Richmondshire Districts and North Yorkshire County, and The York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership are also backing the project.
If you are a small or large enterprise that could (or already does) support our community and help your business by taking on an apprentice, please contact the team on nyadvisor@parliament,uk or 01609 765329 to learn more about this new UCAS project.