I'm involved with apprentices and their development programmes etc at the company I work for.
Like Kieron at Ribshop we do not hire directly, but work with a local training organisation, in our case PETA, who firstly screen the candidates but then monitor what they are doing, advise us, and importantly protect the apprentices from just being cheap labour by monitoring their progress and ensuring that their training is of a good and structured standard.
They come in once a month and sit with each apprentice to keep up to date with their academic and on the job training.
In fact we have taken on apprentices that PETA contacted us about because they are not receiving a good enough standard of training at another company.
My advise would be to contact the local colleges and training organisations and get on their lists, they will advise you what steps to take, what courses you could sign up for as a start, and recommend you to companies that contact them looking for candidates.
Most companies that are serious about developing apprentices rather than abusing them as cheap labour work in this way, the exceptions are large organisations who have the human resources staff trained to develop the programmes themselves.
The majority of companies in your target industry do not fall in the last category.
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