The announcement of an enquiry into apprenticeships, to be launched by the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) select committee, has been welcomed by EAL, the specialist awarding organisation for industry qualifications.
The announcement follows a House of Commons debate entitled “Growth in apprenticeships – real or rebranding?” on Wednesday, November 9, 2011.
EAL, which supports industry apprenticeship programmes run by companies including BAE Systems, Sheffield Forgemasters and Rolls Royce, hopes the enquiry will address key issues preventing more engineering employers from offering apprenticeships. EAL is also concerned over sustainable long-term employment for young people.
Ann Watson, Managing Director at EAL, said: “The rise in engineering and manufacturing Apprenticeships pales in comparison to Apprenticeships in business, administration and law. If the government is serious about its commitment to UK industry, we need to consider whether the support is there to develop the high levels of specialist knowledge and technical skills needed for its future success.”
“The BIS select committee enquiry will hopefully address these issues so that investment is made where it is needed the most. It is also a chance to ensure the right checks are in place to protect the Apprenticeship brand as a viable – and in some cases preferable – alternative to university that attracts new talent into industry.”
The perception of Apprenticeships, funding issues and improving careers advice for young people are all barriers facing engineering companies. Whilst the number of apprenticeship starts in business, administration and law grew by more than 70% during 2010/11, those in engineering and manufacturing technologies rose by just a quarter. However, there are notable industry successes.
KMF, a precision sheet metal firm based in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, has recently run its first awards evening to celebrate the achievements of its apprentices. Building on a long term commitment to apprenticeships, the company has been running its in-house programme, supported by EAL, for the past four years. To support this programme, the company invested in a state-of-the-art training centre and mechanical engineering facility.
Gareth Higgins, Managing Director at KMF, said: “The people we are losing through retirement take with them a huge amount of experience and technical knowledge, which is very difficult to replace. Our apprentices will play a crucial role in maintaining the high levels of skills available to KMF.
“With the training and support that we are giving our apprentices, they can look forward to taking up exciting roles within a growing business. And we have recently employed a further six first-year apprentices, which is a 50% increase in the intake and marks the next phase for our in-house training.”