Business leader and philanthropist, John Caudwell has teamed up with the National Awards body, Great British Entrepreneur Awards to launch a new category aimed at recognising the outstanding organisations investing in young people.

The John Caudwell Blaze Your Own Trail Award, will champion the businesses and organisations that provide world-class training for their young people. From apprenticeships and vocational qualifications, through to work experience and academic support, the award will recognise the important contribution enterprises make to our young people and future economic leaders. 

The award will also celebrate businesses that recognise the barriers to employment that some people face and their work to proactively remove them. Initiatives may include efforts to improve opportunities for people inhibited because of their health/disability, education, race, gender or age.

Prior to founding the £1,47bn company Phones4U, John Caudwell began his career as an apprentice, working at the Michelin Tyres factory in Stoke-on-Trent. John attributes this grounding in a successful multi-national company as providing him with the fundamental training that would later inspire and enable him to become one of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs.

A passionate advocate for training and alternative routes to employment, John said: “The Blaze Your Own Trail Award will celebrate businesses that have developed or delivered top class training for their young people, be that through apprenticeships or other vocational experience or qualifications.

“We’ve seen Government training incentives like the Apprenticeship Bonus and the Kickstart scheme come to an end, whilst better than nothing so much more needs to be done to incentivise employers to develop world-class apprenticeship schemes.

“As wages stagnate and the cost of living rises, the number of opportunities for young people will continue to shrink whilst at the same time we will suffer a chronic skills shortage. The Government is allowing a skills crisis to develop and their current response is highly inadequate. The recent ‘levelling up’ training target of 200,000 more people trained is a drop in the ocean compared to the 16.5m people trained by SMEs every year. 

“Businesses are the seedbeds for skills and training, and Government must start engaging and learning from them if they hope to make an impact. Having started my career as an apprentice, I know the importance of business-led, quality training initiatives; employers must be encouraged and supported to nurture young talent, and we must champion those that do so.”

The Great British Entrepreneur Awards, in partnership with Starling Bank, acknowledges and promotes the hard work and inspiring stories of entrepreneurs and businesses across the United Kingdom. 

Applications open on 7th March and they’ll be looking for businesses that can show a commitment and passion to support non-graduates into employment, with demonstrable personal skill development and opportunities for career progression. Schemes may include (but are not limited to); apprenticeships, kick-start placements, work experience, training & volunteering.  

Francesca James, Founder of the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, said: “I’m delighted to be working with John Caudwell on this new award category. John is an entrepreneur who I’ve long admired, not just for his incredible business achievements, but for his charitable and philanthropic work too. It is vital now more than ever that we support young people taking their first steps into employment”.