A NEW service designed to help employers recruit the next generation of high-tech talent is being piloted in Oxford.

The Apprentice Agency is partnering with Oxford and Cherwell Valley College to help small businesses by offering them ‘work-ready’ apprentices, with the first recruits being specialists in computing.

Now employers interested in taking on young talent are being urged to get in touch to help the scheme develop further.

Sally Dicketts, principal of Oxford and Cherwell Valley College, said: “Apprenticeships raise students’ learning and future job prospects to a higher level, and many businesses report back on a whole range of benefits that apprentices bring.

“We encourage businesses in the Oxford area to get in touch with the Apprentice Agency, to discuss the benefits, particularly in terms of time and cost, that it can offer them.”

A typical example of the type of candidate being sourced by the agency is Jamie Chandler.

The 17-year-old took an apprenticeship with Thame-based website development firm Solve The Web (STW) in September after leaving school. He said: “I looked at colleges but didn’t know what subjects to choose and I thought there was no point in wasting another two years, so I looked into apprenticeships.”

Jamie now has a range of duties at STW supporting staff, while also studying for a National Vocational Qualification in business administration at Oxford and Cherwell Valley College in Oxford.

At the end of a year he will be offered a job at STW, which he says he will definitely accept.

He added: “I have already been given a lot of responsibility and have learned a lot about information technology. Now I want to develop my career around that.”

His employer, Cat Young, said: “We are very keen on training up young talent at STW and even before taking on Jamie, we have always worked to provide work experience.”

The Apprentice Agency will offer businesses a choice of apprentices that meet their needs, and then employ the apprentice directly on the business’s behalf, cutting down on paperwork.

Initially, three types of apprenticeship are on offer: IT technician, business administrator and IT user.

Phil Jefferies, manager of The Apprentice Agency, said: “We’ve launched with these courses first because every business needs administrative and IT support, and many don’t realise apprenticeship is an option when they are looking to fill these roles.”

Apprenticeships have been in the news recently after McDonalds announced that its apprentices could move on to take a degree at 'Hamburger University'. There is more demand for some apprenticeships than there is for Oxford University places, with an average of 16 applicants for each apprenticeship. BT received 240,000 applications for its latest 221 posts.

To contact The Apprentice Agency, employers should visit www.theapprenticeagency.co.uk or call 0845 680 8254.