Apprenticeships have proved to be major career boosters in highly specialised sectors such as engineering and aerospace. Many of the current senior managers at such firms started out as apprentices. The unique combination of hands-on work and theoretical knowledge proves to be extremely helpful for personal development and success, the Guardian writes citing BAE Systems education director Richard Hamer.
It is particularly difficult for manufacturing companies to secure the employees they need, Hamer notes. Therefore, an apprenticeship is the perfect way to nurture the talent you require from the very beginning, he adds.
Having realised the importance and positive outcomes of apprenticeships, companies are working together to set vocational training standards that reflect the specific needs of their industry. These sector groups, which have been called Trailblazers, are part of the apprenticeship system reforms the UK government introduced in 2013.
In addition to industry-specific skills, Trailblazers also place great importance on the basic skills employers say they badly need. These include English, maths, IT and verbal communication. Companies are very concerned with the lack of basic skills but acquiring them is much more effective in a working environment, according to Federation of Small Businesses policy director Mick Cherry. Vocational and academic know-how are equally important and it has become clear that apprenticeships can also lay the foundations for career success, Cherry points out.
More and more young people are opting for the vocational route if presented with the choice of a quality apprenticeship, according to PwC student recruitment chief Richard Irwin. Moreover, employers are coming to realise there is no longer any point in juxtaposing university and apprenticeships. It all boils down to the career path a young person wants to pursue, Irwin adds.
Apprenticeships are steadily growing in popularity and number. School and college leavers are keen on obtaining additional experience through practical work rather than academic study and making an early start on building their career.
The huge flow of candidates and the intense competition among them can make it difficult to grab the opportunity you want, especially when it comes to specialised industries like engineering. This means that apprenticeship candidates must invest a lot of effort in making a good impression at their interview by demonstrating both knowledge and motivation. Are you concerned that you have little experience when it comes to the process of recruitment? Apprentice Eye editor Rebecca Hoursley has put forward some useful tips on how to make an outstanding first impression when encountering the real business world.
Since you are likely to have limited or no work experience, it is essential that you present your transferable skills, Hoursley says. These might include attention to detail, time management, coordination of events or knowledge of certain software products. Some of these universal abilities can be particularly important to a specific job and their presentation is of key importance.
Another tip is to research the business and industry beforehand. Being acquainted with the company’s history and core business is essential and makes a good impression on interviewers. It is also a good idea to familiarise yourself with specific business processes or company projects that interest you and might be part of your future job.
Furthermore, you need to be clear about the job specification and understand the role well. It is worth asking additional questions even before the interview so that your presentation is focused and related to the everyday tasks of the apprenticeship. It is also good to ask questions after the interview. Those might have to do with the potential for personal growth within the company, which would imply long-term interest and determination.
Logistics is indispensable for operations in every economic sector. In the UK, 2.2 million people are employed in the logistics business, which amounts to 8% of the workforce. However, the sector will need another 588,000 workers during the next six years and this will present a massive challenge for UK logistics companies. Their biggest problem is recruitment and retention, which is further exacerbated by the fact that employers cannot find people with the necessary skills. They are trying to address the issue through staff training, both on and off the job, but that in itself represents yet another challenge.
These are among the key findings of the 2014 sector report produced by Skills for Logistics (SfL). The serious shortage of skilled workers is underscored by the fact of 75% of the companies polled said they had provided training for their staff. This has led to a number of business benefits, with 80% reporting improved productivity, greater efficiency and stronger staff motivation. However, skills development is also proving a challenge, mainly due to lack of time, government legislation and insufficient funding.
Given the need for significant future expansion of the logistics workforce, employers were asked to identify the factors most likely to affect training requirements in the next few years. The list included legislative changes, the need for more sustainable work practices and technological innovations. According to more than three quarters of the survey respondents, the focus in the year ahead should fall on developing job-specific skills within the workforce. Other skills that urgently require improvement are communication, organisational and planning skills, SfL established.
Industries like engineering and IT have repeatedly raised the alarm on skill shortages, which has further stoked efforts to revitalise the apprenticeship system. Given the attention they have received in the past few years, apprenticeships may appear to some people to be a modern invention but the truth is that they have been around since the Middle Ages. This goes to show that the importance of vocational training was acknowledged centuries ago and the practice has endured because of its benefits for both parties. The Daily Gazette has combed through the latest research results to compile a list of what makes apprenticeships so important.
From an employer’s perspective, there are several major benefits. According to 96% of companies with apprenticeship programmes, having trainees on the team boosts morale, improves retention rates and brings new ideas. Moreover, 72% of employers report that apprenticeships help increase productivity. For the UK economy as a whole, apprenticeship completions are expected to deliver productivity gains amounting to £3.4 billion within a decade.
But there would not be such a keen interest on the part of young people if apprenticeships did not benefit them as well. The most important advantage they get is employability: 86% of apprentices secure a job after completing their training, with 67% getting a permanent position at the company that has trained them. There is also the benefit of earning good money while learning the tricks of the trade: many employers pay their apprentices more than the required minimum (currently £2.68 an hour). And with more companies waking up to the importance of on-the-job training, young people can now embark on a career in virtually any sector: their choice encompasses over 250 different types of apprenticeships.
Apprenticeships, especially advanced apprenticeships, can truly change a young person’s life. Training on the job equips people with skills that make them highly attractive to employers, thus paving the way to professional success and a rewarding career. Moreover, new government figures show that an apprenticeship can become the gateway to higher education.
The latest statistics came via Skills Minister Matthew Hancock, who highlighted the importance of apprenticeships during his speech at a conference organised by Barclays and the Business Service Association. The research project producing the new figures has been running since 2005/2006. According to the 2014 update, nearly 20% of people completing an advanced apprenticeship progressed to higher education. In comparison, the proportion amounted to 15% in the preceding year. Since the launch of this tracker, over 32,000 young Britons have followed their advanced apprenticeship with higher education.
Commenting on the numbers for 2014, Hancock noted that they offered further proof of the value of apprenticeships. Vocational training gives young people the qualifications they need to build lasting, successful careers, he added. The research has also uncovered that some apprentices progressing into higher education come from underprivileged backgrounds, which means they are less likely to go from school/college straight to university. In this way, advanced apprenticeships are also proving important for the promotion of social mobility, helping people from more disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue further learning.
Hancock also used his speech to once again draw attention to the popularity of higher apprenticeships and he reiterated the government’s commitment to support the creation of another 20,000 higher apprenticeships in the two years ahead.
The manufacturing sector is a critical part of the UK economy but the shortage of engineering skills is a serious threat to its future growth, according to a new report from industry alliance Engineering The Future. This is the latest in a string of publications to raise the alarm over this issue and it notes that manufacturing companies have embraced apprenticeships as a means of addressing their skill needs.
Engineering The Future speaks on behalf of 450,000 UK engineers and virtually all of them agree that the shortage of skilled workers is a key problem for the sector. Members have repeatedly raised concerns about the quality and quantity of engineering graduates and skilled technicians. These concerns have prompted them to call on the government and academic institutions for improvement on both counts.
The report, titled “An Insight into Modern Manufacturing,” points out that problems in the education system have led many manufacturing companies to embrace apprenticeships. Organisations have maintained investment in vocational training programmes even when economic conditions have squeezed their financial resources. This commitment is attributed to the fact that apprenticeships have allowed manufacturing enterprises to produce high-quality workers and ensure their future talent supply.
Engineering The Future also notes that sector operators typically rely on themselves but this can sometimes have negative consequences: such strong self-reliance prevents the government from identifying areas where it can provide support. The report also highlights the fact that the manufacturing industry requires long-term planning so any state intervention or investment needs to be undertaken with the long view in mind.
Recognising the critical importance of skills development, the UK government is providing an extra £25 million to help companies improve training, both for new and existing employees.
The additional funds were announced by Skills and Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock during his recent speech at a UK Commission for Employment and Skills Investment Showcase. The major winner this time is the automotive sector supply chain, which will get £20 million of the total. The remaining £5.2 million has been allocated to the latest group of successful bidders under the Employer Ownership Pilot (EOP).
The money provided to the automotive sector supply chain will allow companies to invest more in training and thus ensure they have the skilled workforce to address their specific needs. Companies can apply for funding by submitting their proposals over the next 12 weeks.
Commenting on the fresh funds, Hancock said that the government was aiming to narrow the gap between employment and education so as to promote skills development. The new fund is a flexible solution designed to help companies in the automotive supply chain train people in the skills the sector requires. This is critical for capitalising on growth opportunities and paving the way for long-term growth in the sector, Hancock added.
The minister also highlighted the contribution of the EOP scheme, which is another effort to help UK companies develop their skill bases. The strength of this initiative lies in the deep involvement of employers: they supplement government funding with their own money and develop their own training programmes. In this way, employers are able to address the shortage of specialist sector skills and make the best use of their training funds, Hancock said.
As vocational training garners more and more attention, so does the role of schools as key providers of career advice. It is essential that young people receive sufficient information about all their options because it has become clear that academic learning is definitely not the only route to professional success. Last month, the UK government amended its guidance on the provision of career advice in schools, calling for “fair and balanced information” on all options for young people. The move has been welcomed by the Edge Foundation although the education charity believes that the recommendations listed in the government document should have been made requirements.
In an article for FE News, Edge CEO Jan Hodges said the organisation was also pleased with the attention given to employers, more specifically the importance of getting them involved in the provision of career advice and guidance. Research carried out by the Education and Employers Taskforce has revealed that young people derive significant benefits and improve their career prospects through initiatives like careers talks, visits to business premises and work experience.
But there are certain aspects of the revised guidance Edge is not happy with. According to its policy and research director David Harbourne, the government has still left schools with too much discretion in the matter of career advice. As Harbourne notes, the “shoulds” in the new guidance far outstrip the “musts” and this could only perpetuate existing practices. Earlier in 2014, an Edge survey revealed that only one-third of students opting for vocational training felt their school stood behind their choice. Furthermore, nearly 25% were told that vocational education was not for them because they were “too clever.” Unless the government enforces the new guidance and turns the recommendations into requirements, too many schools will adhere to old practices, promoting academic pursuits at the expense of vocational qualifications, Hodges said.
Apprenticeships have garnered much attention in the past few years, becoming a focal point for the government in its efforts to combat youth unemployment and promote skills development. But while employers and training providers are spreading the message through their professional organisations, apprentices have so far lacked their own platform for support and representation. This has changed with the launch of the National Society of Apprentices (NSA).
The newly created organisation has already attracted as members over 100 employers, training providers and colleges in addition to more than 100,000 apprentices.
Siobhan Knott, member of the NSA interim leadership team, said that the national society constituted a major step towards raising the profile of apprentices and ensuring they get the respect they deserve. Through the Apprentice Exchange group and forum, young Britons in vocational training can make new acquaintances, swap ideas and make their voices heard. The NSA provides the sense of community apprentices across the country have lacked so far, Knott added.
As Not Going To Uni reports, the NSA came into existence in February. It was created with the aim of supporting apprentices, giving their views national representation and promoting apprentice rights. The society also intends to shine a light on apprentices’ contribution to their communities.
The NSA has been around for only a short time but it has already championed several important initiatives. In Northern Ireland it helped apprentices get together with decision-makers and discuss their future vision for apprenticeships. In Wales it supported the launch of a research project dealing with trainee travel costs. In addition, the NSA organised a trip to Finland for apprentices from Leeds and Doncaster, providing them with opportunity to see how the Nordic country’s apprenticeship system works.