Small businesses in Bradford are praising the impact of a new scheme that harnesses the potential of young people through apprenticeships.

The Apprenticeship Training Agency (ATA), a partnership between Bradford Council and Bradford College, is celebrating placing its first cohort of young adults into full-time work.

The £7.7 million initiative, which now has almost 50 Bradford employers on board, forms part of the ‘Get Bradford Working’ programme and ATA manager Stacey Jobson says she has been ‘extremely pleased’ with the positive reaction so far.

“For businesses, we provide a no-risk model, and I think it’s a win-win situation”, she said.

“We provide support and choice for the employers, and no other organisation has worked with Bradford’s micro-firms before.

“For the apprentices, we have such a diverse range of opportunities – anything from the care to the manufacturing sector, and we really commit to them as individuals.”

If they take on an ATA apprentice, employers need not worry about any human resource issues as these are taken care of by the agency.

That was something that appealed to Stacey Bower, director of Pineoakio Furniture in Cullingworth, when giving an opportunity to Lucy Thompson, the first ATA apprentice to be placed.

“There is no hassle, no paperwork, so it’s been great for us,” said Ms Bower. “The scheme is like an extended trial period, and you really get to see if someone is right for your company. Lucy has been fantastic and I’ve already recommended the project to other businesses.”

Paul Woodhead, manager at MCC Garage in Manchester Road, Bradford, was already an advocate of education programmes with local schools and colleges before becoming involved with the ATA scheme.

“We invite lots of lads down here to work and I do my best to give them my time,” he said. “You want them to do the best for themselves and I enjoy giving something back.”

The garage is working with 17- year-old Joseph Normington, one of 18 individuals to have been placed so far.

ATA’s target is ultimately to provide 150 apprenticeship opportunities for the district’s 16-24 year olds each year.

Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, the Council’s executive member for employment, skills and culture, said: “The success of the scheme so far is impressive and there has been an amazing response from Bradford businesses. I am particularly pleased for the young people who have found work through the agency and there are still some apprenticeships available through the ATA, so I encourage our young people to grasp this opportunity."

Those seeking information on the ATA scheme should visit atabrad or call (01274) 925255.