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Stephen Lloyd,  Mark MacFadden, Melanie Hunt and Keith Ridley

Stephen Lloyd, Mark MacFadden, Melanie Hunt and Keith Ridley

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Employers in the town are being urged to consider taking on an apprentice as part of a campaign to help young people into work.

That’s the message from a consortium of local organisations backing The Big Conversation, a series of sector-based events aimed to help create meaningful employment opportunities for young people.

Officially launched by Business Secretary Vince Cable at Sussex Downs College last week, The Big Conversation is also geared toward responding to the needs of local businesses in a difficult economic climate.

The College, in partnership with Eastbourne & District Chamber of Commerce, Eastbourne & District Enterprise Agency and The Eastbourne Herald, is spearheading the initiative.

It is hoped that by the start of National Apprenticeship Week (March 11-15), local businesses will pledge to create 100 new apprenticeship vacancies for the coming year.

To help achieve this target, The Big Apprenticeship Conversation was held at Eastbourne’s Birley Centre on January 24 for employers wanting to find out more about apprenticeships and hear from others who are now sold on the scheme.

Guest speakers included Principal of Sussex Downs College Melanie Hunt; Stephen Lloyd MP; Mike Hensman from the National Apprenticeship Service; and Business Development Manager at Sussex Downs College Kirsti Godson.

They were later joined as part of a panel by Georgina Bauer from Eastbourne shop Funky Viking, Jacqueline Joyce from Clifden House Nursing Home and a current apprentice, to discuss the merits of work-based training and answer burning questions posed by employers about all aspects of taking on an appprentice.

At the end of the event, Stephen Lloyd MP urged employers to fill in pledge sheets to express their interest in dis rentice.

At the end of the event, Stephen Lloyd MP urged employers to fill in pledge sheets to express their interest in discussing apprenticeship possibilities with Sussex Downs College.

Later that day, the next Big Conversation was held, focussing on the motor vehicle industry.

The event offered employers the chance to find out more about the benefits of taking on apprentices, hear from others in their industry that have benefitted from apprenticeships, and find out more about the College’s new qualification in Vehicle Body Repair.

Big Conversations about the retail, hospitality, childcare and engineering sectors will follow throughout the year.

The College is also organising a raft of events from March 11-15 as part of National Apprenticeship Week.