If there was a twitter-style “trending” topic for UK politics and business, the word apprenticeship would certainly be on the list. The bandwagon carrying UK youth from the job centre to the workplace is being driven by a triumvirate of Prime Minister David Cameron, Business Secretary Vince Cable and Mark Prisk, minister for Business and Enterprise.
Nick Clegg jumped aboard the wagon on Friday (25th November) – announcing a £1bn Youth Contract that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills stated: “will help the most disengaged 16-17 year olds by getting them back to school or college, onto an apprenticeship or into a job with training.”
The drive to meet the government’s target of 100,000 apprentices by 2014 has centred upon small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and manufacturing. Beagle Technology Group, aircraft component manufacturer, ticks both of these boxes. Tom Moore speaks to John Taylor, managing director at Beagle, to discuss the announcements and what they mean for his company and other SMEs.
TM: Has Beagle hired any apprentices over the last 5 years – if so, describe the programme you have in place?
JT: Beagle has taken on a few apprentices; some of the technology schemes offered by Beagle are:
- Performing Engineering Operations
- Technical Services
- Fabrication and Welding
- Aeronautical Engineering
Our scheme leads to real jobs. Rob Chaffey joined Beagle 5 years ago as an apprentice and is now a full time engineer. He experienced practical hands-on work and studied the theoretical side too during his apprenticeship in Technical Services.
Beagle has recently taken on three more apprentices, one of whom is now in his second year and the other two in their first year. The length of an apprenticeship will depend on what level of qualification the candidate wishes to achieve.
TM: Does Beagle receive funding to support apprenticeships from the government or elsewhere?
JT: We don’t receive any funding directly; however, the apprentices do receive subsidisation they arrange with the government themselves.
TM: Do you think it’s unfair that SMEs that have never hired an apprentice before will receive the new £1,500 incentive from BIS, whereas Beagle will not be eligible for the funding because you already invest in apprentices?
JT: Yes, it is unfair. There is no encouragement for Beagle to continue taking on new apprentices.
TM: If Beagle were to get £1,500 incentive, would it help – and would it lead to more apprentices being taken on?
JT: Yes, it would go towards training the new staff and we would definitely continue to take on more apprentices.
TM: Do you think the incentive will work? Will it convince other SMEs to hire apprentices?
JT: Yes, there is a good chance of it working as companies need “fresh blood”, where better to start than an apprenticeship? In consideration of university costs and unemployment issues, more people are looking into learning a trade through apprenticeship schemes.
TM: As an SME – do the costs make it difficult to take on apprentices?
JT: The costs and time required for training new staff doesn’t always justify taking them on. Funding from the government to subsidise training would be beneficial.
However, the costs don’t affect Beagle taking on apprentices because the company is expanding. All of our apprentices have moved forward into full time work, often within the company.
TM: What daily tasks are involved during apprenticeships at Beagle?
JT: Their daily tasks vary from fitting and welding to composite layering, depending on the projects they have been given.
TM: What personality traits do you look for in an apprentice?
JT: Beagle generally seeks people who have a good work ethic and are motivated by a challenge. Acute attention to detail is essential, and a systematic and logical approach to working.