Sir Alex Ferguson encourages UK apprenticeships

Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson lent his support to apprenticeships, training and funding at this year’s Unite conference.

The United boss, who is marking 25 years at the club, was one of the speakers at the union conference held this year in conjunction with Cogent, the sector skills council, at the Mechanics Institute, in Manchester.

Sir Alex, who is a former Glasgow shipyard trainee, union shop steward and a long-standing supporter of the Labour Party, said: “It is only when you had the opportunity to have an apprenticeship that you realise the long term benefit. Anyone who had that experience will have appreciated the skills they learned.”

Mr Ferguson continued in his justification of apprentice training: “Over a long period in our industry, apprenticeships have been neglected and that has to change. They offer that opportunity for business to build from within their own confines and create an atmosphere of loyalty and continuity.”

This year’s Unite conference was held in conjunction with Cogent, sector skills council for science based industries. The partnership between Unite and Cogent has recently been strengthened in collaboration over the launch of the new Technical Apprenticeship Service (TAS) which offers support and guidance for the establishment of apprenticeship programmes in process industries.

Unite have been influential in ensuring that the suggested structures for these apprenticeships are fair and equitable from an employee perspective, protecting against the possibility of apprentices being used as cheap labour rather than a long term skills investment for companies.

The Manufacturer spoke to Tony Burke, Unite assistant general secretary for manufacturing, who attended the conference: “The reception from those who attended the conference was excellent, there were a lot of questions from the floor and Sir Alex was only too happy to answer them.”

Unite firmly believe that despite the current economic climate manufacturing and science-based companies need to invest in apprentices and up skill and train their workforce.

Mr Burke continued: “The conference was supported by Cogent and there were a number of people speaking, including myself. Sir Alex spoke about the importance of apprenticeships and related it to his own experience as a tool maker in the 1950s in Glasgow.”

Drawing to a conclusion Mr Burke commented: “Several employers at the conference were impressed with his experience with football apprentices, like David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, who not only trained with their club and but learnt other skills including IT and media skills, which meant they felt hugely loyal to their club.”