Ann Watson, managing director of specialist awarding organisation EAL, welcomes government plans to make it easier for firms to engage in apprenticeship training.
I’m extremely heartened to see the Government taking the bull by the horns and I applaud John Hayes when he promises to ‘sweep away the red tape’ which stands in the way of firms taking on apprentices. The Government has been extremely vocal about the engineering and manufacturing sector, putting it at the heart of the UK’s plan for export-led economic growth. Advanced manufacturing has a long tradition of apprenticeship engagement and given recent figures on UK output, it is right that firms in these sectors are supported to train more effectively, which will in turn stimulate growth.
Times continue to be tough, especially for young people who face unprecedented unemployment and rising university tuition fees, so it is imperative that the Government creates worthwhile and long-term opportunities. By making it easier for firms in skilled sectors to take on apprentices, the benefits will be two-fold. Not only are young people being paid to learn valuable skills for life, but in turn contributing towards to industries at the forefront of the economy. This is why it is crucial that the additional apprenticeship places are concentrated in highly skilled industries, making it not just good for business, but good for the economy too.
The Government has the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy. While new measures designed to reduce burdensome red tape are to be welcomed, it should not limit these solely to large firms that contract directly with the Government, which is why I am eagerly awaiting further announcements, aimed at SMEs, in the autumn. The Government would do well to remember that SMEs account for a huge proportion of our country’s manufacturing base and red tape has a huge implication on their ability to train. If the Government is serious in its plan for the UK to compete on the global stage and maximise its competitive advantage, it must replicate this model and concentrate its efforts to slash red tape where it is needed most.