Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

I’m with you 100%... The Apprentice hard man backs our campaign

He can reduce the cockiest interviewee to a quivering wreck with his withering put-downs.

But businessman Claude Littner — who has grilled finalists of all eight series on BBC1’s The Apprentice — had nothing but praise for our 100 Jobs In 100 Days campaign to encourage companies to create apprenticeships.

The accountant-turned-troubleshooter said he backed us “100%” and owed much to an apprenticeship “of sorts” over four decades ago.

“Lucas CAV (motorparts company) sponsored me to go on my degree course so I worked for them for six months, went back to university and back to the company for six months.

“For me that type of apprenticeship was absolutely fantastic to teach me about how the company worked.”

The Belfast Telegraph’s campaign to encourage companies to take on apprenticeships reached its halfway point yesterday. We are well ahead of target as 18 businesses have pledged to take on 84 apprentices.

Littner said apprenticeships are a relevant option for employers and young people.

“In the modern day it’s a great opportunity for young people without qualifications to understand the world of work. You get a lot of misinformation about work, but if you can get an apprenticeship it can be hugely beneficial both for the young person and the employer.

“Older people think they have ideas, but they are burdened by a lot of history — but young people can come up with new ideas.

“Particularly in these very difficult times, apprenticeships are fantastic and should be encouraged.”

In his TV career Littner has cultivated a reputation for snarling, intimidating performances in interview.

But he said an ethos of treating people well in the workplace is a truer reflection of him.

“I’d like to think there’s more to my character than what you see in The Apprentice,” he said.

“By the time they get to the final the contestants have gotten so full of themselves and their ambition. My job is to cut them down to size and give them a sharp dose of reality.

“I would never conduct myself like that in reality. It wouldn’t work in business.”

How initiative works

Apprenticeships usually take between two and four years, depending on the complexity and the number of qualifications required. It also depends on whether you are offering a Level 2 or a Level 3 apprenticeship. Wages are agreed between the apprentice and employer, but the minimum wage applies. Employer incentive payments are available of between £250 and £1,500 on completion and come from the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) but are paid through the training supplier. An employer will be told about the potential incentive when they sign up to a programme. For under-25s, DEL undertakes to pay full costs of ‘off-the-job’ training included in the ApprenticeshipsNI framework and contributes 50% for 25s and over.

Join the campaign

If you are a business owner or chief executive interested in bolstering our young people's life choices by creating an apprenticeship, please email BTapprentices@gmail.com and we will let readers know of your interest. You should also find out about the Government Act for a minimum of 21 hours per week. The apprenticeship can be created for an existing member of staff to give them more training. You will have to come up with a personal learning plan. If you’re looking for an apprenticeship, positions are usually advertised in the same way as other vacancies, so you apply like any other job. Your local training supplier can also advise. Training suppliers are listed on the website www.nidirect.gov. uk/apprenticeshipsni.

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