Firms look to tap into pool of young talent

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HUNDREDS of school leavers currently considering their future job prospects will be cheered by the news that two Sudbury employers are looking to take on apprentices.

Despite the economic downturn and fears that jobs are becoming a scarce commodity, one of the town’s silk mills and a leisure centre are hiring, not firing.

In last week’s Free Press, we reported that 25 new jobs – a mix of full and part-time roles – were up for grabs at Waitrose. The store confirmed it had received more than 100 applications for the jobs which it is currently going through.

After speaking to several of the town’s biggest employers last week, many said the jobs market was flat or static, with job opportunities patchy.

But one of the town’s famous silk firms, which employs 110 people, is taking on another member of staff – and the hunt is on.

Richard Heap, managing director of Stephen Walters & Sons, in Cornard Road, said his company had launched a search for a 16-year-old apprentice with a creative spark – and he is hoping to hear from anyone interested in joining the firm.

“We are looking for a 16-year-old who has just finished their GCSEs,” he said. “Maybe they aren’t academic, that doesn’t matter because weaving is all about touch and feel. Maybe they are someone who is involved with crafts and who has a passion for crafts.”

He said the successful candidate would be mentored by someone who had been with the company many years and would get to learn about all the different stages of the working process. And he said he would be happy to hear from mums or dads if their sons or daughters fitted the profile.

“We come from a sort of sleepy English town but if you look at all the work we do far and wide, it is astonishing,” he said. “For the Bond films, we have woven all Pierce Brosnan’s suits and ties and Sir Alex Ferguson’s ties are woven here.”

Tracey Copping, chief executive of South Suffolk Leisure, which runs both the Kingfisher Leisure Centre in Sudbury and Hadleigh Swimming Pool on behalf of Babergh District Council, said the company was looking for four apprentices.

“We are looking for four people, two for Sudbury and two for the Hadleigh pool,” she said. “They will be young people who are willing to learn and are enthusiastic. The closing date for these positions is August 31.”

She said all applicants would be asked to attend a job workshop where they will take part in various activities to do with teamwork and customer service.

She said: “Employers are being encouraged to take on apprentices by the Government and through various incentives. The only financial incentive here is the training.”

The centre has other jobs on offer at the two locations for quality and project managers and health and fitness instructors and co-ordinators.

Philips Avent, based in Lower Road, Glemsford, takes on engineering apprentices every year. The company, which employs more than 500 people and manufacturers millions of baby bottles, looks for school leavers interested in following an engineering career.

A spokesman for the firm, which was acquired by Philips six years ago, said: “We are targeting local schools and colleges to find suitable students and we are always looking for that certain skill sets in manufacturing, engineering and project management.”

Lauren Kent, from Halstead, got an apprenticeship with Braintree District Council, which has taken on 15 apprentices over the last three years and is currently looking for a minimum of six new ones.

Lauren, who works in human resources, said: “I decided to become an apprentice as I couldn’t attend university, but still wanted to continue with my education.

“My job role includes helping with the recruitment process, setting up training events, arranging meetings and booking rooms, gaining skills in areas I may not have been so confident in, and also showing me what it’s like to work in an office.”