On a visit to Halfords’ Shirley store in the West Midlands, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne launched plans for the nationwide programme which follows a successful recent pilot. Five candidates from the trial were awarded certificates by the Chancellor in recognition of their achievements.
The visit followed earlier speeches by the Chancellor and the Prime Minister, where they set out their six-point long term economic plan for the Midlands.
At the heart of the plan to make the Midlands an engine for growth, the Chancellor set out new measures to help develop skills and people in the region. These include investing in a new approach to matching people with opportunities with Andy Street – the Chief Executive of John Lewis and Chair of the Birmingham and Solihull LEP – to work with local businesses bringing together all of their vacancies for the first time in one place, and actively matching local people to them. The Chancellor also announced an investment in 100 new job coaches for local job-seekers to access the right training and apprenticeship to secure a good job and the expansion of the Birmingham Baccalaureate.
The Halfords programme equips candidates with four qualifications. Those completing the three weeks intense training will gain Halfords’ Gear 1 level training, a Retail Level 1 certificate, an Employability & Personal Development Certificate, and Level 1 or 2 in Maths and English.
The scheme is open to people who are currently unemployed, long-term unemployed and NEETS (not in education, employment or training) and on completion of the above training, candidates are interviewed and, if successful, offered apprenticeships.
Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne said:
Improving skills and creating jobs is at the centre of the engine for growth we want to build in the Midlands. Our long term economic plan for the Midlands is all about ensuring that the right training and apprenticeships are available to make the most of people’s talents and that’s why I welcome the investment Halfords are making in people. It’s great news that their programme will create hundreds of new opportunities for hard-working people, right across the country.
Halfords CEO Matt Davies said:
We wanted to go above and beyond the usual apprenticeship model, and by offering pre-employment training to our candidates, we’re raising the bar for training in the retail industry. We will train 500 apprentices across Halfords in year one with this new scheme and see huge potential for the programme in getting people back into work and a new wave of talent into the industry.
Halfords has already run an apprentice scheme in its Autocentre business for over 20 years and currently has 225 apprentices employed in the business, with a pass rate currently at 80% for completion of the three year full time apprenticeship.
The 2014 Apprentice of the Year, Elijah Sumner has progressed to the World Skills Final and he is in a team competing to represent the UK at the finals in Brazil later this year.
Halfords has 11,000 employees and was named number 25 in the Sunday Times Best Places to Work Survey 2014.