With 10% of George Utz’ global workforce undertaking apprenticeships at any one time, its UK production manager, Garry Archer seeks an answer.
October 2015 saw the launch of the Government’s so-called ‘grow your own talent tax’ on large businesses aimed at forging 3 million new apprentices by the end of this Parliament in May 2020.
However, as I predicted, rather than the excited welcome that greeted the ‘white heat of technological innovation’ in the 1960s, this scheme has generated a more tepid response.
Indeed, according to the CBI, businesses are already giving it a bit of the cold shoulder. The employer’s body reviewed 300 companies that collectively employed more than 1 million staff and revealed that more than half didn’t feel that they would be able to recruit the right people with the relevant training through this scheme.
My own analysis would be less prescriptive, but I would need some convincing that the levy will be correctly targeted to ensure that UK plc was fit for purpose or open for business as an engineering powerhouse for the 21st century and beyond.
By this I mean that the levy pouring into the apprenticeship scheme should – rather like a smelting crucible – create a perfectly formed process with no spills or wastage.
The current shape of the proposal could, if not carefully ring-fenced – create a leakage of funds to less-focussed apprenticeships.
Yes, all businesses need to encourage apprenticeships, but the money must follow the need and plug the skills gap in nurturing and bringing on the engineering and manufacturing talent of tomorrow.
Having the R&D and electronics or engineering capability to make products – many of which have not yet been thought of – that people want and need all over the world, is what this levy should be targeted at.
The contributing businesses will of course also want to see an ROI in terms of a deepening talent pool that will generate the profits and economic prosperity for the UK.
With the greatest respect, they will not see a great ROI if the levy were too heavily focused on those talents and services where apprenticeship is probably the wrong word to use in the first place.
As a family-owned Swiss company which employs almost 900 people in eight countries, George Utz has set an international benchmark for ensuring that 10% of its workforce is going through apprenticeships at any time.
During National Apprenticeship Week in March this year Skills Minister Nick Boles was given a lesson in engineering by our very own Kane McDaniel when he visited Toyota Manufacturing UK’s Apprentice Development Centre at its Burnaston car plant in Derbyshire.
McDaniel – from Eastwood, Nottinghamshire – is one of the leading talents from outside Toyota who is taking part in the automotive giant’s ground-breaking work in developing young people’s skills and career prospects – George Utz is one of the contributing Derbyshire companies to this scheme.
The talented teenager, who scored more than 90% in all of his modules just six months after joining the scheme, works as one of six apprentices taken on by George Utz last September.
They will spend most of his time training at Toyota, but after completing the apprenticeship will be integrated into Utz production as fully developed and highly trained technicians who will be a critical part of our future.
The Apprentice Development Centre was established as part of a significant expansion of Toyota’s investment in training in 2009, and is operated by Toyota in partnership with Burton and South Derbyshire College.
The centre is currently training 44 apprentices drawn from 13 different companies local to Toyota, both within and outside the automotive sector.
Nine of these businesses are engaging apprentices for the first time, gaining access to Toyota’s skills, resources and expertise in recruiting, training and developing apprentices to national Level 3 or HNC standards.
The devil will be in the detail after the consultation is complete, but it’s a numbers game in terms of the correlation between the levy and those perfectly formed apprentices coming out the other end of the production line.
The smart money is on tooling the right kind of training and talent to ensure that the 3 million apprenticeships make the right level contribution to the national balance sheet, or there will be questions come May 2020.