Industry leader refutes Minister for Skills’ comments

Posted on 26 Nov 2014 by Jonny Williamson

Bernard Molloy, Unipart Logistics’ global logistics director, has called into question some of the remarks made by the Minister for Skills and Equalities, Nick Boles during his presentation today at The Manufacturer Directors’ Conference (TMDC).

In his discussion this morning on the future of UK talent, the Minister placed a particular focus on apprenticeships and commented that the Government must ensure that industry has access to a continual steady stream of talent armed with the skills businesses need, both hard and soft skills.”

Accepting that this was no easy task, he went on to state the importance of apprenticeship programmes in meeting this demand and highlighted that Government spending on apprenticeships is higher than ever, with a current crop of 840,000 young people.

The Minister added that some changes to the programmes still needed to be made, such as making each apprenticeship last a minimum of 12 months and encourage employers to become more involved with the assessment process.

Speaking exclusively to The Manufacturer on the sidelines of TMDC, Unipart Logistics’ Bernard Molloy commented that the Minister had fallen “well short” of what industry would expect in terms of potential improvements to the programme.

Molloy questioned the insistence of a minimum of 12 months and stated:  “You cannot have a proper apprenticeship in anything less than two years, and if you want to learn properly about every aspect, then really three or four.

Referring to the Government, and previous governments, as “out of touch”, the global logistics director denounced the country’s high number of both young men and women not in education, employment or training (NEET), clearly alarmed at the prospect of so many that “do not have a future.”

He said: “In the case of Germany, you either go to university or you become an apprentice; and the rigour of that should be enforced in the UK. We should not be allowing young people to leave school who are unable to read or write to a competent level and start adult life without some direction of a career path.”

Having previously completed what he referred to as a “traditional” engineering apprenticeship, Molloy recalled a time during the mid-1960s when he was employed at a Liverpool corporation: “I was so impressed by the sight of a Lansing Bagnall van, whose engineer was dressed smartly, a proper collar and tie, his name was on his overalls with his van clearly organised, that I thought if I’m a good enough engineer, I would like to work for Lansing Bagnall.”

As it turns out, Molloy became the CEO of Lansing Linde, which at the time was the world’s biggest lift truck companies; a feat he said couldn’t have been accomplished without the foundation his apprenticeship afforded him.

“Government must realise that apprenticeships are not just for 12 months, they have to be fundamentally structured properly; and the money being invested in apprenticeships currently is not going to the apprentices, it’s going to training providers who are, in my opinion, not up to the mark in providing proper apprenticeships,” he concluded.