IT's hard to believe that we're in the concluding week of this year's 16-week North Devon Apprentice Campaign, writes Robert Zarywacz.
When the North Devon Employment and Skills Board launched the first campaign in 2011, we had no idea what response it would generate.
But the area's businesses and jobseekers – still in the grip of a deep recession – astounded us.
Since then, the campaign has grown every year and when I interview businesses now it is quite common for them to say "we plan to take on an apprentice".
As well as encouraging the creation of more apprenticeship vacancies and uptake by jobseekers, the campaign also aims to increase participation in activities.
This year the Apprenticeship Showcase at the Barnstaple Hotel attracted an impressive turnout with 94 individual exhibitors and contributors, 40 exhibition stands and 16 exhibiting employers.
The event was attended by 220 students and jobseekers, 154 school pupils plus accompanying teachers from seven local schools, 52 parents and 35 employers seeking further information or apprentices.
The case studies we've featured have included brewery apprentices at Wizard Brewery, marketing apprentices at web hosting specialist Flint Hosts, motor mechanic apprentices at Robins Garage and customer service apprentice at MJM Sports. Our employers are actively helping to shape apprenticeships with Actavis becoming a trailblazer company for the life sciences and industrial sciences sector, helping to create the new standard for Laboratory Technician apprenticeships and Science Manufacturing Technician apprenticeships.
Meanwhile our apprentices themselves act as ambassadors with 19-year-old Chris Lake, a woodworking apprentice at GS Haydon and Son, acting as the sole UK representative at the WorldSkills Americas competition in Colombia.
Many thanks to Sarah Grigg, employment and skills manager at North Devon+, and all employers, apprentices and organisations who have helped with our coverage.
While the campaign itself is over for another year, the focus on apprenticeships continues all year round and the North Devon Journal will bring you the latest apprenticeship news as it happens.