JUST six people have found work under Worcester City Council’s much-heralded apprenticeship scheme – despite predictions it would help “25 to 30” jobseekers last year.

The council has been forced to admit businesses are “counting the pennies” amid efforts to try to boost the city’s economy.

In September last year the council’s cabinet launched a much-vaunted bursary scheme armed with £30,000 of cash. Under the rules, private firms could bid for handouts worth £1,000 in return for taking on a new apprentice.

A report published at the time said Worcester was suffering from “poor retention” of “bright and talented people” and predicted it would create up to 30 jobs.

Nine months on, six people have found work under the scheme, leading to criticism it is not working.

Councillor Joy Squires, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Worcester, said: “Given the magnitude of Worcester’s unemployment problem – with more than 600 people claiming jobkseeker’s allowance, are we really doing enough to tackle our youth crisis?”

One of the firms to take advantage of it was Dolphin Computer Access, Blackpole, which took on two new apprentices last year.

Noel Duffy, managing director, said: “To be honest it has worked great for us – we’d take on even more apprentices if we found the right people. Perhaps not enough people of the right calibre are coming forward. The scheme is great for us, we really like it.”

David McKay, aged 43, one of his apprentices, relocated from Fife, Scotland, to find work at the company after being unemployed for 15 months. He said: “It has literally changed my life. I’ve learnt so much here. Many people think apprenticeships are just for young people, but they are for anyone.”

Companies who do get £1,000 can also apply to the Government for an additional £1,500.

Councillor Marc Bayliss, deputy leader of the city council and cabinet member responsible for economic prosperity, said: “We’ve done a lot of marketing and awareness raising, but businesses are counting the pennies and people are being cautious.

“When we launched it we were aiming at businesses which had never taken on apprentices before, and ideally those which were knowledge intensive, but it is open to all.”