Boss calls for more help with apprentice training

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A COMPANY boss has hit out at the difficulties in running apprenticeships, in spite of record youth unemployment.

Piers Hart, whose firm Piers Hart and Company has made high quality bespoke furniture at Barnham since 1977, wants to carry on training apprentices as cabinet makers.

But he said: “It’s not just a problem of recruiting. It’s getting the right sort of youngster, then the working time directive stops them working more than eight hours a day and the colleges have dropped the courses they need.”

Mr Hart says the lack of National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) courses is the biggest problem because, if he finds the right person, he feels there are ways round the fact that his factory works four 10-hour days to reduce its carbon footprint.

“Vince Cable has said firms are going to get £1,500 for taking on young people, but I don’t want the money,” he said. “What I would rather he did is spend it on providing the courses for these people to go on.”

Mr Hart says the NVQ cabinet- making course in Norwich was dropped some time ago and Suffolk College, at Ipswich, dropped it in July because of low demand. The Rural Development Commission used to support block release courses, but has been disbanded.

Mr Hart says he wants to take on two apprentices and, if he can find the right people, is prepared to make ‘a lot of noise’ if courses are not available. But finding the right people is also proving difficult.

He says young people do not seem interested in apprenticeships or understand the work ethic.

He added: “I have to ask, do the schools encourage young people to think about doing practical jobs?

“With the emphasis on everybody going to university the focus has been taken away from practical skills. I don’t think schools in the last 20 years have taken youngsters who aren’t academically inclined and said to them that they have to look at manual skills.”

He would like to see those youngsters concentrating on vocational qualifications from the age of 14.

He has had apprentices who have given up after a week and feels they may have been coerced by parents into a job they are not interested in.

He said: “There’s also the perception that they’re going to become instant cabinet makers and they’re not.”

But when he gets the right person, they stay: His first apprentice, recruited in 1978, is still working for him.

Would-be apprentices can contact Paul Hart and Company on 01842 890212.