Wiltshire Community Foundation is encouraging young people from low-income families starting apprenticeships to seek grants of up to £1,000.
The foundation has supported hundreds of young people with the grants to help buy specialist equipment or laptops or cover the costs of field trips and some travel.
The grants are regularly awarded to students on sixth form courses or studying at college, and foundation grants officer Nicola Hillier wants to see more applications from people on apprentice schemes.
She said: "The grants do make a real difference particularly when money is tight and a student needs to buy expensive equipment, take part in course-related field trips or activities that help their learning.
“We know there are many young people embarking on apprenticeships who would really benefit.”
Katie People, 19, of Swindon, received £500 for bricklaying tools to help on placements while studying at New College in Swindon.
Course leader Rob Caton said: “She is now doing housebuilding and is doing very well, so the grant really helped her get started.”
Single mum Jenny Freeman of Rudloe, near Corsham, applied for £450 for son Jospeh, 16, to buy gardening equipment before starting a horticulture course at Wiltshire College.
“It was a big help to him because he didn’t have anything and I couldn’t afford to buy things like tools and protective clothing,” she said. “It was good for him because he got a job looking after two elderly people’s gardens.”
Joseph will be starting a horticulture course at Wiltshire College Lackham in September and has also been looking at apprenticeships.
Finola Cullimore was awarded £500 to help with her farming studies. The 18-year-old, who lives near Warminster, will begin a foundation degree in agriculture business management in September.
Finola, who wants to become a dairy farmer, used the grant to pay for an artificial insemination course while she was studying for a level 2 NVQ at Kingston Maurward College in Dorchester.
She said: “I’m really grateful for the grant. Having this qualification makes you so much more employable and it’s a skill you have for life. It’s the difference between getting a general farmworker’s job and one as an assistant herdsman.”
Paddy Bradley, chief executive of the Wiltshire and Swindon Local Enterprise Partnership, welcomed the grant. He said: “It’s a brilliant idea and much-needed for apprenticeships because we’ve seen the numbers go down.
“The 18 to 25-year-olds have been the worst hit by Covid. Five per cent of young people in Swindon and Wiltshire go down the apprenticeship route, compared to 15 per cent going to university, so there’s a long way to go in getting more into apprenticeships.
“The evidence is beginning to build up that the social divide is widening and social mobility is not going in the right direction so grants like this are fantastic and it’s an encouragement and an incentive.”
To be eligible for a vocational grant, applicants must have a parent or guardian in receipt of one means-tested benefit, have lived in Wiltshire for two years and are under 25 at the time of their application.
Wiltshire Community Foundation joint chief executive Fiona Oliver said: “We have seen many times over the years we have been running this grant programme the enormous help it can give a young person in following their chosen career.
“It’s a very flexible grant and we will consider any educational or training use. Anyone who is not sure can email us at email@example.com to talk to one of our grants team.
“It has been a tough 18 months for young people and many have seen their education disrupted. We hope these grants are one way of helping them get back on track and following their dream."
More information can be found at wiltshirecf.org.uk grants-and-support/individuals/new-grant/