Up-and-coming talent is the focus of a new project to help those who will power business in Suffolk in the years ahead.

A team of experts has been examining apprenticeship programmes in Suffolk with the aim of offering people better development of their qualifications and work experience.

While apprenticeships are not declining in Suffolk as much as other parts of the country, the team from Suffolk Chamber of Commerce’s people and skills group (PSG) has recommended more collaboration across training providers and industry, as well as improved signposting from business bodies, to help to boost the take-up of apprenticeships in the county.

Richard Brame, the chairman of the PSG, said: “Suffolk Chamber believes that apprenticeships are changing, but with better coordination and collaboration, they will continue to form an important pipeline of up-and-coming talent that will help power the county’s economy forward for years to come.”

Councillor Rachel Hood, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for skills, said: “Apprenticeships remain a very important means of providing a route into employment, growing the talent pools that many of our key sectors require and upskilling and progressing our current workforce.

“We are committed to working closely alongside other key stakeholders to find further means to maximise the contribution that apprenticeships can make as we continue to look to build back better, build back stronger, and build back greener following the pandemic."

Apprenticeships allow people to combine study for a recognised qualification with frontline and paid experience within an organisation.

The PSG's review looked at both the strengths and weaknesses of the current system - and found a complicated picture.

Most businesses shift away from using apprenticeships as a means of recruiting junior roles to one that focuses on developing existing staff.

The study also discovered a decline in candidates’ soft skills, eg communication and socialisation, making it challenging for businesses to make such placements work effectively for them.

The improvements recommended by the group include the need to establish local standards, taking into consideration Suffolk’s growth sectors and expected infrastructure development, as well as fixing relationships between education and businesses at a local level to increase the proportion of ‘apprenticeship-ready’ students.