A high-flying care organisation is launching a two-year apprenticeship scheme – with 100 places up for grabs every year.

Pioneering Pendine Park has already invested more than £750,000 in developing the training programme that’s set to revolutionise staff development in the social care sector.

The structure of the Pendine Pathway programme that will be provided by the company’s in-house training arm, the Pendine Academy of Social Care, will be similar to the training for rookie plane-makers at Airbus in Broughton.

The idea is that the apprentices will earn while they learn and the scheme is being set up without any public funding whatsoever.

Pendine Park will also be working in partnership with the Coleg Cambria further education college where the apprentices will be attending courses on day-release.

They will also be dovetailing their efforts with a Prince’s Trust initiative to give young unemployed people the opportunity to work in social care and learn transferrable employment skills.

The announcement was made at a special event, Innovating and Transforming Social Care, in Wrexham.

Among the speakers at the launch were two senior figures from the Welsh Government, Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, and Ken Skates AM, along with the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, Sarah Rochira.

Pendine Park, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, already employs more than 650 at seven care homes, a domiciliary care company and their training firm in Wrexham.

They have just opened a £7 million centre of excellence, Bryn Seiont Newydd, in Caernarfon where 60 staff have already been taken on, with a further 40 due to start in the new year.

Pendine Park has won a host of awards over the years, many of them for the way in which they use the arts to improve the quality of life for the people for whom they provide care and the arts will be central to the apprenticeship scheme.

The scheme is the brainchild of the company’s arts-loving owners Mario and Gill Kreft who were particularly proud when Pendine Park was named Arts and Busines Cymru Business of the Year 2015.

The couple believe social care should be treated as a sector of national strategic importance as it underpins the NHS and the local economy in communities across Wales.

According to Mr Kreft, who was awarded an MBE for his contribution to social care and is also the chairman of Care Forum Wales, establishing the Pendine Pathway was the culmination of three decades of experience in the sector.

He said: “We’ve identified that we needed to innovate and we would argue that transformation is absolutely essential for the sector to ensure we have enough people with the right skills.

“This is actually going to be a paid training programme and it is similar to what’s done by other leading companies like Airbus but we believe this is the first time anything like this has been done in the social care sector.

“In a sense we are going back to the future to create old-fashioned, real apprenticeships that will create 100 new jobs.

“What we’ll be doing is taking cohorts of people through an initial paid induction of six months and those who succeed will go on to a full 18 month programme.

“They will come out of that with the Pendine Plus qualification which has been mapped and will receive a diploma award level 2 in customer care and supervisory management and also, of course, care.

“We think, whether it is in a care home or in domiciliary care, this is a very, very significant departure.

“Our enrichment programme will be at the heart of everything we do because our ultimate aim is to improve the quality of life for the people for whom we provide care.

“What is really significant is the use of our new training materials which we’ve developed over recent years, although in reality the journey has been much longer because we have been committed to the value of high quality training since we founded the company in 1985.

“Our first cohort of people will begin early in the New Year and importantly, we want to be working with our colleagues in Coleg Cambria because there is going to be a day release element.

“We’re delighted to be able to announce today a number of other care providers, including Cariad Care Homes in Gwynedd and the Glan Rhos Nursing Home on Anglesey, who will be working with us, piloting and evaluating our programme.

“They have been given the programme under licence as part of our desire to up the ante in the care sector, to be sector leaders and I’m delighted that some North Wales care providers and South Wales care providers are taking this forward.

“What we want to do is we want to grow our own.  We want to show people there’s a real opportunity for a career in social care and even if it isn’t ultimately the thing for you, there’s so many transferrable skills.

“Making a real difference to the lives of vulnerable people is something that very many people find to be very rewarding in itself and in a relatively short space of time you could end up in a very senior position.

“Managers in care facilities typically command salaries of £30,000-40,0000 a year or more, so these are not low paid jobs. It is a profession.

Minister Lesley Griffiths welcomed the ground-breaking initiative.

She said: “I am pleased to be here today at the launch of this innovative approach to both supporting people into employment and providing quality services to our most vulnerable citizens. In these times of austerity the Pendine Pathway shows how the involvement of private sector is vital to the delivery of quality services.”

Gill Kreft personally masterminded the development of all the training modules and steered Pendine Park and the domiciliary company, Independent Living, to achieving Investors in People gold.

She said: “We believe we’re a good organisation and we aspire to be a great organisation and launching the Pendine Pathway programme makes this an important day in our history and one which we hope will transform social care training for the benefit of the people for whom we provide care.

“Our research and development of training in social care and redefining the role of care practitioners has led us to this point of being confident to train our way to revolutionise quality and the social care sector.”