Apprenticeship ambition

Posted on 18 May 2011 by The Manufacturer

An event at The House of Lords on Wednesday addressed barriers to the growth in the number of apprenticeships in the UK and called for industry consultation.

Leading employers in the UK Siemens, Tata, Ford and Airbus will today join Semta, the Sector Skills Council for Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies, for the Apprenticeship Ambition Launch at The House of Lords.

The proposals will commit to doubling the number of higher level apprenticeships in England in the next five years and as part of today’s event Semta will submit a document named Creating the Skilled Workforce of the Future which suggests how this will be achieved. Semta will be looking for feedback from employers and other player in the skills landscape on these suggestions.

Part of the remit of today’s launch is to identify and discuss the barriers to the establishment of more apprenticeship placements in the UK. Speaking to TM before the event, Philip Whiteman, CEO of Semta, commented: “The problem is not that apprenticeship are undersubscribed. Hundreds of potential apprenticeships get knocked back from schemes like those at Airbus, Roll-Royce and Jaguar Land Rover every year. Some persevere to reapply the next year but most just give up and are lost to the industry. What we need is more places. At the moment only 7% of our [Semta sector] employers offer apprenticeships.”

Despite his consequent comment that removing the barriers to apprenticeships was “not rocket science” Whiteman did however, acknowledge the difficulties that small businesses have in responding to the call to establish apprenticeship schemes. Pointing to the administrative burden of recruitment and management as well as the strain on existing resources in providing the mentoring necessary for an apprenticeship, Whiteman admitted that more needed to be done to support those with fewer financial and human resources in doing their bit for industry skills development and the reduction of unemployment, particularly among young people.

In the consultation document Creating the Skilled Workforce of the Future Semta have laid out a 10 point action plan for acting on these issues, and others. In all the 10 points cover approaches to:
1. Increasing the range of applicants
2. Improving the quality of applicants
3. Ensuring the right progression routes into and within apprenticeships
4. Minimising barriers to employer involvement
5. Reducing bureaucracy
6. Increasing employer investment
7. Generating employer commitment
8. Developing high quality responsive provision
9. Maximising the impact of investment
10. Designing qualifications and frameworks that meet the needs of employers

With regards to this last point Whiteman said that the challenge of developing apprenticeship to answer the needs of increasingly complex combinations of skills, such as those needed by engineers working on wind turbines, is ever increasing. He said: “This work requires skills, such as abseiling, which are really the domain of other sector skills councils – in this case construction. All the sector skills councils are working harder now to work together on the integration of skills for complex and emerging industries.”

In addition to this growing work with other sector skills councils, Semta is today hoping to sign an important agreement with the National Apprenticeship Service which it hopes will help rationalise the provision of apprenticeships for both employers and applicants.

Apart from any such agreement though, it was clear from discussions with Semta and, importantly, with apprentices themselves today, that the role of large employers in enabling apprenticeship scheme in their supply chain and promoting knowledge in their local communities around the opportunities in and requirements for an apprentice career cannot be underestimated.

TM awaits more news on the outcomes of today’s Apprentice Ambition launch.