A NEW scheme to encourage more people and employers to get involved with apprenticeships has been launched by Wiltshire Council.

The Wiltshire Apprenticeships Campaign, which was launched at County Hall in Trowbridge on Tuesday, will seek to increase the number of apprenticeship starts each year from 5,000 at the moment to 6,750 by 2019/20.

It comes as the Government targets three million starters nationally each year.

The campaign will work with the Gloucestershire and Wiltshire Training Provider Network, the National Apprenticeship Service, and a number of employer apprenticeship ambassadors.

Jane Scott, leader of Wiltshire Council, said: “Apprenticeships for me are absolutely crucial to the economy of this county.

“We are reasonably successful compared to the rest of the country but we can always do more.

“The challenge for us is to keep an eye on the future and not just the present and part of that is to make sure that the next generation have the skills in the county that are for higher level jobs and not just any job.

“It will allow people to reach their potential.”

A graduation ceremony for the county’s higher and advanced apprentices is planned for October next year at Salisbury Cathedral in recognition of their achievements.

More than 40 individuals achieved a higher apprenticeship in the county last year, while 40 per cent of all apprenticeship starts are at Level 3.

Megan Mounty was an apprentice in Cllr Scott’s office and was also shortlisted for apprentice of the year.

She said: “The person here now is not the person that you would have met a year ago.

“I didn’t do the best in school but through the apprenticeship I’ve passed my maths, English and IT and passed all my exams with distinction and merits.

“It gave me the chance to prove myself.

“I have met a variety of people and learned stuff that you wouldn’t learn in school.

“Apprenticeships improve you as a person and develop you.”

At the launch of the campaign there were also employers sharing their experiences of taking on apprentices and who were being encouraged to make a pledge to do more.

Managing director of John Williams Heating Services in Chippenham, Debbie Williams, said: “It was a big leap of faith for us to get involved in apprenticeships, but I can honestly say we have never looked back.

“We have five apprentices but one has just left after four years and he’s been an absolute credit to the apprenticeship programme.

“As employers it’s our duty to take them on and give that person the opportunity to grow.

“I would urge all employers to take the leap of faith, it does take time and money but it’s vital that we train the work force of the future.”