IT'S ONLY THE BEGINNING
FOUR months ago the Evening Post launched a campaign to make a difference to the lives of young people in the Bristol area.
The idea was simple – to get young people into the world of work through apprenticeships, schemes which allow them to earn while they learn, and to give them the qualifications and foundations for a bright career in the future.
We challenged employers across the city and beyond to open the door to young apprentices, to help us secure 100 apprenticeships in 100 days.
The businesses of Bristol answered our call, and the campaign reached its target on the very first day.
Bissell's 8910E Aroma Pro is the ultimate in home cleaning giving you a machine that provides outstanding results when not just cleaning carpets but stairs and upholstery too.
Terms: Limited Stock Offer . FREE Delivery to most UK postcodes.
Contact: 01664 491439
Valid until: Tuesday, May 28 2013
But it could not end there, so we redefined our target, to get 100 companies to offer apprenticeships in 100 days.
This was a tall order, even for a city the size of Bristol.
We ran stories in the Post every day, and dozens of companies contacted us saying they were looking for apprentices.
At the same time we received an endless stream of inquiries from young people ready to start work but who didn't quite know how.
We simply put the two together. On September 9 the 100th company, Bristol Uniforms, signed up to our campaign, helping us reach our second target.
We eventually succeeded in getting 103 companies to offer apprenticeships, a goal we achieved in just 85 days.
As a result more than 150 young people have bright prospects for the future.
They are now working for large multinational organisations, local authorities, universities, family-run businesses and fledgling companies in roles as diverse as accountancy, beauty therapy, youth work, plumbing, retail, butchery and car repair.
At the time the campaign target was reached, the Evening Post's editor, Mike Norton, said: "To have achieved the goal before the end of the 100-day campaign is an incredible achievement, not by us but by the businesses of Bristol.
"We are delighted that so many have chosen to give opportunities to young people in the area.
"Apprenticeships can really give them a positive start on the career ladder, which is vital in such uncertain economic times.
"Our campaign may have reached its goal, but we want businesses to continue to offer apprenticeships and benefit from bringing talented young people into their companies."
This underlines the true motive behind the campaign – to begin a shift in attitudes towards apprenticeships and help young people and businesses understand the benefits they can bring.
For youngsters just leaving school they provide an opportunity for them to earn a wage, gain valuable experience of the world of work and, vitally, gain recognised qualifications that will stand them in good stead for the future.
For businesses they are a financially efficient way of bringing enthusiastic young people into their workforce, giving them the chance to invest in the futures of their companies.
In these economically challenging times, when new university students face the possibility of debts of £36,000 when they graduate and with unemployment at about 2.5 million, apprentices are a lifeline for all.
The success of the Post's campaign has been seized on far and wide.
Chris Skidmore, the Conservative MP for Kingswood, praised its achievements in the House of Commons, and he tabled a parliamentary motion to congratulate Bristol businesses for pledging to sign up new apprentices.
The campaign has reached the highest offices of power, and Prime Minister David Cameron has added his own voice to thank those businesses now employing young people.
John Hayes, the minister for further education, skills and lifelong learning, which includes apprenticeships, said the Government is committed to increasing the number of apprenticeships.
He said: "Apprenticeships provide the opportunity for people to earn while they learn, and the training opportunities they offer are key to supporting this country's growth and success.
"I believe that apprenticeships should be the primary work-based learning route, and this is why we have already secured an additional £150 million for 50,000 extra apprenticeship places this year.
"Campaigns such as the Bristol Evening Post's are valuable in raising awareness of the advantages apprenticeships bring to both learners and employers, and I wish them every success."
Throughout the campaign we have worked with the National Apprenticeship Service, a government initiative designed to increase the number of apprenticeship opportunities across the country, and the City of Bristol College, one of the main training providers in the city.
Geri Bowie, employer service manager at the NAS, said: "It has been a great campaign, but it wouldn't have succeeded without Bristol's businesses, so we are really grateful to them."
Claire Arbery, contracts manager at the City of Bristol College, said: "Apprenticeships are great because they give young people the opportunity to learn skills that they don't get in the classroom.
"We are delighted to have worked with the Evening Post throughout this campaign."
So the message that we started out with four months ago is clear.
The country is facing the worst economic disaster for generations, but we can all do our bit to help break out of it and ensure things are better for the future.
The young people leaving our schools now will become the businessmen and women of the future, and we have an opportunity to help give them the best start in their chosen careers.
The campaign has been a success, but it is really only the beginning.
Our ongoing challenge to the businesses of Bristol is this – invest in young people now, and you will help create a better future for us all.