A BID to create 1,150 extra apprenticeships for young people across the county has been launched.

It comes as part of a new strategy and aims to plug the county’s skills gaps, mainly in technical manufacturing.

The first Skills Strategy for Oxfordshire sets out some of the priorities the local enterprise partnership (LEP) – a body made up of Oxfordshire business chiefs and council leaders – wants to tackle.

Nick Bracey, 22, is an apprentice at web designers Oxford e-Books in Kennington.

He said: “I think apprenticeships should be given more coverage. It has worked for me and I think the more people that get involved the better.

“I did a year at university and I found the experience lacking. It is all well and good getting taught in the classroom but without putting that into practice it wavers.

“I believe the experience of an apprenticeship is more valuable. There is oversaturation in the market because everyone has got a degree but not many people have got the experience to back it up.”

The Skills Strategy for Ox-fordshire is part of a bid to turn the county into a “knowledge economy,” together with the recently-signed City Deal and the LEP’s submission to the Growth Fund, which will kick-start the county’s economy.

Adrian Lockwood, chairman of the Oxfordshire Skills Board and a LEP board member, said it will start a programme next academic year working with local schools.

It will provide them with information about career opportunities in areas where jobs exist in the county.

He added: “The skills gap we struggle with most is technical manufacturing, often more hands-on people who have done it through a vocational route.

“Young people, when they are given careers guidance, need to understand that an apprenticeship is every bit as good a career route, and sometimes a better one, than going to university.”

The creation of the skills strategy has been supported by the Oxford and Oxfordshire City Deal, which was signed by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in January. It involves central government investing £55m in the county and giving it more powers.

The LEP has also submitted a bid for a share of the £2bn Growth Fund pot, which could see government money coming into the county to grow the economy.

It is hoped this investment will create 85,600 new jobs by 2031.

One of the objectives of the LEP is to increase the proportion of Oxfordshire’s working age population with a level two qualification and above – meaning GCSEs at A* to C or equivalent – to 90 per cent.

Ian Hudspeth, leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said the education authority is “pushing” schools to ensure pupils leave with the right skills.

He added: “We are working with the schools to make sure we get standards raised because if people have got the basics right they are able to use those skills later on.”

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