Strong manufacturing apprenticeship talent will pave the way to economic wellbeing, says Peter Winebloom, EEF Director of Apprentices and Skills.
This week (Feb 7-11) is National Apprenticeship Week, and so it is a particularly good time to put the spotlight on the talented and passionate young people across the UK who are developing high-level technical and leadership skills, supported by their employer, through apprenticeship programmes.
The recent EEF Future Manufacturing Awards recognised the outstanding achievement of two such individuals from BAE Systems and Cobham. Their stories are exceptional, but it is not unusual because right across the UK there are young people working hard to build a career in engineering and manufacturing, playing their part in helping employers develop the highly skilled workforce that as a nation we will increasingly require.
Manufacturing accounts for more than its fair share of apprenticeships, with around one in eight employed in the sector. It is a tried and tested model, familiar to employers and widely respected by the country at large. Fitting then that new research from the Apprenticeship Ambassadors’ Network shows the benefits of taking on apprentices – from staff retention and reduced recruitment costs through to higher levels of productivity and competitiveness.
The value of apprenticeships has not gone unnoticed across government.
Indeed, apprenticeship programmes are one of the few areas of government policy that consistently commands strong cross-party support. Additional resources will, in fact, be targeted towards growing apprentice numbers in the coming years with John Hayes, the Minster for Skills, recently saying that he has ambitions for over 350,000 apprenticeships during his term as Minister.
These are welcome commitments, but as yet remain works in progress and not the only aspect of the government’s skills agenda that still needs attention.
We need the system to be simple, not for the sake of organisational tidiness, but because it needs it to be efficient, not just to save money, but to ensure support is going where it can do most good.
Apprenticeship Week is a good opportunity to raise awareness of apprenticeships amongst business but we must also use it to encourage more young people to consider a career in industry – so that they see the link between the exciting technologies and products that surround us every day and the means by which these goods are created.
As a nation we need to take the development of our skills seriously.
This will go a long way towards ensuring that we build a more balanced economy less reliant on financial services and one in which hard working apprentices are valued for life, not just for this one week.