Let’s use the Apprenticeship Levy to improve engineering skills

Posted on 10 May 2017 by The Manufacturer

Supporting apprenticeships as a path into industry has never been more important. Professor John Perkins, chair of the Education and Skills Panel at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) explains why.

Skills Apprenticeships Apprenticeship Apprentices Workers Manufacturing Stock ImageThe recent announcement of a snap general election in June brings renewed focus on the introduction last month of the Apprenticeship Levy.

The election of a new government, regardless of the winning party, will present an opportunity for review of the levy – considered controversial by some – to build on what’s right with it and fix those areas where improvements can be made.

The timing couldn’t be better – in the sectors represented by the IET’s members, we are at a major crossroads in terms of ensuring that the next generation of engineering talent has the skills to meet the demands of an increasingly automated industry.

Poor awareness and understanding

However, despite the Apprenticeship Levy providing a real opportunity to help close the skills gap, awareness and understanding of it is woefully low, with only one in three employers saying they are fully aware of it, according to recent research carried out by City & Guilds.

This is due mainly to confusion surrounding the financial implications and a lack of understanding of how it will work and benefit them.

Smaller businesses in particular, who are exempt from paying the levy but without whom it won’t achieve its full potential, may see it as an initiative for larger businesses only, and risk being left behind as a result.

The opportunity is now

We would like to see employers in the engineering, science and technology sectors seize this opportunity to lead the way in providing a platform for people to develop their skills on-the-job and invest in the appropriate training,

With technical education in the UK lacking the stature and prospects for advancement it does in many other countries, the Apprenticeship Levy is without doubt an opportunity to make up the shortfall of fresh talent the industry so desperately needs.

The Manufacturer Top 100

Professor John Perkins sits on The Manufacturer Top 100 judging panel, the group tasked with compiling an annual list of the 100 greatest people working in UK manufacturing.

Now entering its fourth year, The Manufacturer Top 100 project publicly recognises the most dynamic leaders and innovators in manufacturing, helping to dispel the myths surrounding industry and draw young people into the sector.

Nominations are open for The Manufacturer Top 100 2017, and those named within the report will be revealed at a glamorous evening of celebration on 15 November in Liverpool, where shortlisted cross-sector candidates will arrive from all corners of the country to raise a glass.

This year, The Manufacturer Top 100 is sponsored by Salesforce and Autodesk.

Visit the TheManufactuerTop100.com to nominate your manufacturing hero.

Increasing chances for more people to follow a work-based route into engineering will help employers build the specific skills, experience and knowledge relevant to their business and their sector, and address the lack of ‘work readiness’ among school leavers reported by employers in recent surveys.

Apprenticeships for all

There is a need in particular to support smaller employers, who make up the majority of UK business, to ensure they understand the benefits of the levy in helping to create apprenticeship-led pathways into work and invest in on-the-job training.

Importantly, the more we are able to point out the positive impact that engineering apprenticeships can have on individuals who want an interesting and challenging career, the easier it will be to attract future apprentices and to show this route into industry is just as valid as any other.

With almost half of employers now shifting from graduates to apprentices when looking to fill entry-level roles, and just over a quarter citing apprenticeships as crucial to addressing the deficit in skills, supporting apprenticeships as a path into industry has never been more important.

So, for the 53% of employers who told us in our Annual Skills Survey that they didn’t know what the levy will bring them, the time to find out and act is now.

Support for young engineering talent

The IET is committed to encouraging more young people into engineering apprenticeships through its annual awards programme, which each year provides more than £1m in awards, prizes and scholarships to celebrate excellence and research in the sector and encourage the next generation of engineers and technicians.

Our Engineering Horizons Bursary scheme is designed to support talented individuals facing personal obstacles or financial hardship to complete their training as an apprentice with a package of financial support and membership of the IET.

Separately, our Apprentice of the Year Award identifies individuals who have made an impact on their organisation and on the engineering profession. By celebrating their hard work and acknowledging organisations who have supported them, we spread the word about the benefits of apprenticeships each year.