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College on to a winner with its office apprentice

Colleges' efforts to increase the number of apprentices they employ have been rewarded with their first Apprenticeship Award.

Sinead Smith, who has worked since 2006 in business administration at Gloucester College, has been named as Apprentice of the Year. This is the first time in the awards' six-year history that a college employee has won.

The 19-year-old, studying for an advanced apprenticeship after completing her level 2 qualification, said: "It was difficult when I was 16. My friends came to college as students, and I had to be mature when I was working and I would see my friends laughing together.

"But most of my friends are in college full-time, so they just get education maintenance allowance or have a part-time job, while I'm working here, improving my confidence and learning new skills."

She said she was surprised with the level of responsibility she had been given by the college, even training other members of staff.

Sylvia Bullock, director of business and workplace development at the college, said that having their own apprentices on staff made it easier to sell the benefits of apprenticeships to other employers.

Colleges have set themselves a target of employing 1,500 apprentices by next year to play their part in efforts to raise the numbers of public sector apprenticeships. A survey suggested that 78 per cent of colleges employ apprentices.

This week, the Government urged employers to back a national campaign to give young people jobs, training and work experience. The Backing Young Britain campaign includes internships for graduates and non-graduates, including 10,000 places for 18- to 21-year-olds who have not been to university.

The initiative - involving the departments for business, innovation and skills; children, schools and families; and work and pensions - also announced the first 47,000 jobs for young people supported by the Pounds 1 billion Future Jobs Fund.

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