A NEW local apprenticeship initiative is hoping to tackle employment issues by teaching people of all ages new lifelong skills.

The apprenticeship programme from welding specialist Betterweld has already seen great success, running level one to three welding courses from their base at Shafton Steel Services.

By partnering with Billington Structures, successful apprentices have been able to take their skills straight into the workplace, while allowing the company to ease their hiring process.

Assistant HR director for Billington, Claire Upperdine, told the Chronicle: “We’re really proud of this.

“Although this benefits us, we want to see Betterweld and what they’re doing succeed - it’s great for the area and getting people into work.

“It’s really rewarding to hear the learners’ stories.

“Some of them have had really difficult lives, and have been in and out of work.

“So to be able to give them a stable career where we look after them, we pay them a good wage, they can earn a good living and support their families has been really rewarding.

“These people deserve a good chance, a good career, and hopefully this can provide them with a job for life.”

Betterweld takes on apprentices from the age of 19 and is trying to combat the fall in new recruits that the welding industry has faced in recent years.

At an event last Wednesday, they invited local employers and job centres to learn about the apprenticeship process and look for further partners for their learners to gain employment with.

Yet they are not only looking to train people who are coming straight out of school.

Martin Copley, a 38-year-old level three apprentice, said: “It’s very interesting and you’re constantly learning on the job.

“I had an accident that resulted in two years off work and two operations - I was a forklift driver for 15 years before and fancied a change when I got back.

“At the job centre I saw the course and asked if I could be put on it and it’s just gone from there.

“If they see that you’re willing to work and put the effort in then you’ll have a good career ready for you.”

Barnsley College have announced they will be working with Betterweld to offer students additional skills development opportunities.

“We work with local employers both large and small to identify skill gaps,” senior account manager at the college Steve Hartley said.

“It’s really good for us to have Betterweld there to create that pipeline and talent pool to educate individuals who can fill those skills gaps, bring in new talent and upscale existing staff as well.”

Elliott Gwynne, sales and operations director at Betterweld, added: “It’s about developing lifelong skills and improving the lives of our learners.

“A lot of our learners have rough backgrounds, so this is a good opportunity for them to try again.

“We’re supporting ongoing educational development for people in the area, while supporting businesses by developing this path for employment.”