YOUNG apprentices look set to be offered free bus travel to help them get on the road to work.
Labour and Conservative county councillors look set to agree on a plan to spend £310,000 on getting apprentices to work in their first year at this Wednesday’s budget meeting.
It will mean that up to 3,050 apprentices in the county aged up to 24 would receive £200 over a 12 month period to pay for free bus travel.
Apprentice carpenter Joe Byford, 18, from Gloucester, thinks it is a good idea. He often has to travel great distances in his role with Gloucester firm Town & City Builders. For example, last week he made his way to Dene Magna School, in Mitcheldean, to work on a roofing project.
Joe said: “It can cost quite a lot to get around if you are an apprentice and many are not paid very much so having a scheme like this would be a real advantage for young people.
“I am really lucky that most of the time work colleagues pretty much pick me up and drop me from my doorstep but not everyone is that lucky and have to rely on buses.
“I think this would encourage more people to consider an apprenticeship. Doing one has been great for me. I left school at 16 and wanted to get into the trade so I went to college. Then I found Town & City Builders and they took me under their wing. I’m really enjoyed being given the chance.”
Joe himself is now a second year apprentice so he would not directly benefit from the scheme – but he hopes that it is introduced so that fellow apprentices can benefit.
The idea, proposed by Labour, is to be supported by the Conservatives.
Councillor Barry Kirby (L, Grange and Kingsway), who has led the idea, said: “Apprenticeship schemes are really great for giving the whole package, with a wage, the vocational training and the hands on practical experience, but getting to work comes at a cost. The wages of an apprentice do not really cut the mustard when it comes to facilitating getting to work.
“The travel card will encourage apprentices to stick with it. There’s a large number that start a scheme but because of their own hardships they just can’t continue. It will not only support apprentice in allowing them to continue to become qualified, but it will boost Gloucestershire’s economy.”
The first year of the scheme would cost £350,000 to administer, but the cost would drop to £310,000 thereafter.
Council bosses are still working out the finer details of how the travel card would work, to make sure that it is secure and not open to abuse.
One way to deal with that would be to issue apprentices with a £50 top up card, which could then be added to as they press ahead with their apprenticeship – a bit like a top up card for a mobile phone.