The shrinking pool of UK engineering talent has been a common topic in media publications recently. As the economy and labour market improve, the shortage is set to become even more keenly felt. The recently published annual Confidence Index from specialist recruiter Matchtech highlights the need for a more concerted industry effort to make the engineering profession more attractive for young people. While apprenticeships are making a solid contribution to solving the problem, sector players feel that young people do not get sufficient encouragement to pursue an engineering career.
The survey conducted by Matchtech for its annual report showed that 76% of UK engineers believe the government is not doing enough to make the profession desirable for young people. It is also quite worrying to note that 63% see the UK losing its standing as a global engineering leader in the future. Moreover, 58% of UK engineers would consider relocating abroad, which does not bode well for the local talent pool, Matchtech managing director Keith Lewis pointed out in an article for E&T Magazine.
These figures clearly show the urgent need to act, Lewis commented. Apprenticeships offer a way out and they have had a very positive impact. According to research by the Industry Apprentice Council, 98.5% of apprentices are “overwhelmingly pleased” with their decision to pursue that route. Nevertheless, under 25% received encouragement from their school and this is one area where more work needs to be done.
Besides joining the effort to promote apprenticeships through schools, the UK engineering sector should capitalise on its successes to raise its profile among youngsters, Lewis said. Through highlighting the achievements of individual “industry heroes,” it can restore pride among their peers and provide inspiration for young Britons, he added.
More and more UK school leavers are becoming aware that university is not the right path for them. However, they have limited information about their alternatives, most notably apprenticeships. Vocational training is considered crucial for building the UK’s future talent base but how can young people be expected to go for that if they don’t have enough information? This issue was the subject of a recent Guardian Professional article, which explored the most common myths about apprenticeships and dispelled them by highlighting the key facts.
To youngsters worried about not having a real job, author Hannah Friend explains that most apprenticeships are actually a full-time occupation. Guidance provided by the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) states that apprentices must work a minimum of 30 hours a week, which is slightly less than the 37.5 hours required under regular contracts. Moreover, the minimum duration of an apprenticeship must be 12 months but many programmes stretch for up to four years.
Many young people also fear that an apprenticeship does not offer them security. However, their contract will typically give them all rights enjoyed by other employees, as well as the same employment and career progress opportunities.
Another common myth has to do with the affordability of apprenticeships but school leavers have nothing to worry about on that count: the training costs are covered by the government and employers. As for low pay, that is also a common misconception. The minimum starts at £2.68 per hour but the amount grows over time and research has found that the average apprentice earns a net £200 weekly.
Many youngsters also labour under the misconception that an apprenticeship will leave them without a qualification. Depending on the programme they choose (intermediate, advanced or higher), they can finish their training with a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ); a Functional Skills qualification, a technical certificate, a Higher National Diploma (HND) or a foundation degree.
As the global demand for electronic products continues to grow, so to do opportunities
Pictured next to a Diamond X-Ray machine manufactured in Aylesbury: Neil Pearce, Marc Innes, Ian Harper, Samantha Booth
for Aylesbury-based firm Nordson DAGE, the market leading provider of award winning test and Inspection systems for destructive and non-destructive mechanical testing and inspection of electronic components. Nordson DAGE is a division of Nordson Corporation (NASDAQ: NDSN).
The Company has expanded its facilities in the UK to better serve its international blue-chip clients, who continue to demand the firm’s high technology products manufactured in Aylesbury and exported around the globe.
With a well developed Apprenticeship scheme, the company has been in a position to offer Apprenticeship places to local young people. Recently Marc Innes joined the organisation in a production capacity having been recognised as a young engineer with exceptional potential.
Marc recently finished his initial Apprenticeship training with ATG Training in Aylesbury in December, and having impressed his training officers, he won an award for his work. This was recognised with a presentation at the offices of Nordson DAGE when Chief Executive of ATG Training – Ian Harper, presented the award to Marc alongside his Production Team Leader – Neil Pearce and HR Generalist – Samantha Booth.
Marc is an ambitious young man and is already manufacturing products under supervision for blue chip international clients. He is already thinking ahead and is considering studying an HNC once the first year of his Apprenticeship training programme is complete.
“I strongly support the Apprenticeship programme here at Nordson DAGE. The depth of engineering, technology, manufacturing and other experience will hopefully provide Marc with a solid platform for his career.” Phil Vere, President of Nordson DAGE
Last year, EngineeringUK called on the industry, government and the wider science community to work together so that the country can ensure its future supply of engineering talent. As part of that drive, the organisation set specific goals to be achieved by 2020, among them doubling the number of young people under 19 doing Level 3 apprenticeships. EngineeringUK has now released a report detailing the progress made so far and it is clear that efforts need to be intensified in certain areas.
With regard to apprenticeships, the objective is to have 37,000 people aged under 19 doing Level 3 vocational qualifications by 2020. In particular, EngineeringUK has called for more youngsters to do advanced apprenticeships in engineering and manufacturing technology, construction planning and ICT (information and communication technology). This is one of the areas where the State of Engineering 2014 report notes a failure to achieve progress so far. In 2011/2012 the number of under-19s doing an engineering-related Level 3 apprenticeship framework declined by 12.2% to 16,280.
On a more positive note, EngineeringUK points out that 250,000 youngsters completing Level 3 apprenticeships in those areas have achieved BTecs, NVQs, VRQs and QCFs. This is an encouraging fact because these vocational qualifications will be of great importance for building the future talent base of the UK engineering sector.
Part of the solution lies with ATG Training who since 1967 have been delivering high quality Engineering Apprenticeships in the Thames Valley. This makes the organisation well placed to serve the skills requirements of the industry with recruitment, staff training and development in key roles.
Two teenagers have made Hertfordshire proud of its engineering talent. Daniel Rowe and James Griffin emerged victorious in an intensive competition that involved more than 100 participants vying in 11 engineering disciplines. The two youngsters snatched the champion titles at WorldSkills UK and won the privilege to compete in the world finals, which will be held next year in Sao Paolo, Brazil.
The engineering competitions within the WorldSkills UK portfolio are managed by Semta and are part of a project launched by the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) in collaboration with industry and education sector partners. WorldSkills UK aims to shine a light on real talent and provide young people with the opportunity to reach greater heights through further education and apprenticeships. The competitions also bring talented youngsters to the attention of employers and allow organisations to share best practices. The ultimate goal is to ensure that the UK will have the necessary talent to sustain its economic growth in the future.
A shortage of engineering skills is among the problems most often cited as a threat to future growth. According to Semta chief executive Sarah Sillars, Daniel and James have achieved tremendous success and will hopefully go on to achieve even greater things. Their personal triumph can also become an inspiration for many young people, attracting them to the engineering profession. This will be extremely important for the country because the UK needs to ensure the future of its advanced manufacturing and engineering: two sectors that will underpin economic growth in the years to come, Sillars added.
Around 160 young people will be selected to start an apprenticeship programme at BMW Group’s UK operations this year, the company has announced.
The new recruits will join the 400 that have already started their training at the company. This year’s apprenticeship programme is set to include 49 young people that will join the MINI manufacturing plants, as the company plans to ramp up production before the new model is revealed. A further 110 apprentices will be recruited in BMW and MINI dealer networks across the UK.
The MINI plant in Oxford is ready to welcome 31 young people who are willing to receive training in various positions, including engineering, IT, logistics and finance, starting in August. The Swindon plant will accept ten more apprentices, while the Hams Hall engine plant has opened eight positions. The full training course takes between three and four years, the company explained.
Skills and Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock welcomed the news, commenting that it is always great when a major company like BMW demonstrates that it supports young people and their professional development. The BMW apprenticeship programme is an excellent opportunity for any young person with an interest in the automotive industry to gain experience and maybe start a career in the sector, he added. Hancock also stated that he would like to see apprenticeship programmes becoming part of the norm for young people and that the number of positions opened at various businesses across industries shows that this is becoming a reality.
Commenting on the announcement, a spokesperson for ATG Training said that the Oxford City Learning Careers Fest 2014 would be taking place at the BMW Mini plant next week on 21st and 22nd January. Many different Apprenticeship routes will be available for young people, teachers, and visitors to review.
Youth unemployment has become a serious problem for the UK and it may get even worse now that the job market is fully open to Eastern European migrants. The only way to help young Britons become competitive in the battle for jobs is to ensure that they get high-quality training or are provided with ample apprenticeship opportunities, according to entrepreneur Will Davies.
Davies, head of property maintenance firm Aspect, believes that the government and employers must intensify their efforts to address the problem of youth unemployment. Over a fifth of young Britons under the age of 24 are out of work or not in any training at the moment. This has serious implications for the job prospects of local youngsters because many Eastern Europeans arrive in the country with an apprenticeship on their CV, thus securing an edge over untrained locals, Davies told EN magazine.
The key to making young Britons competitive is betting on apprenticeships and training programmes, the entrepreneur went on to say. Migration is good for the economy of any country but it also raises the bar for local job applicants. Eastern Europeans have built a reputation for their work ethic and this has made its impact on the UK labour force by spurring local workers to improve so that they can compete for jobs. However, UK employers need to do their bit to ensure that local youngsters get access to more apprenticeship and training opportunities. This is the only way they can remain competitive in the job battle with more skilled and experienced migrant workers, Davis concluded.
Commenting on the news a spokesman for Apprenticeship training provider ATG Training pointed to the current opportunities that exist on www.atgapprenticeships.com and the National Apprenticeship Service.
When it comes to apprenticeships, 2013 can be described as nothing short of a triumph, according to Skills Minister Matthew Hancock. In an article for the Huffington Post, he lists the ten most memorable events of the past year, adding that apprenticeships will remain a focal point for the government throughout 2014.
Hancock’s list begins with the tribute paid to apprenticeships in the Queen’s Speech. During the opening of Parliament, Her Majesty stressed the importance of vocational training, saying that the government aimed to make it the norm for young people who choose not to pursue the academic route. Second place on his list goes to the apprenticeship reforms announced in October and the top three is rounded off by National Apprenticeship Week.
In a major boost for apprenticeships, 2013 brought the revelation that young people with a Higher Apprenticeship under their belt are more desirable as employees than university graduates, as established by independent research. Hancock assigned fifth place on his list to the increased focus on raising the profile of apprenticeships among small and medium-sized enterprises and the measures taken to spur apprentice recruitment in that sector.
The number six slot is occupied by the Apprenticeship Awards, which are a regular annual highlight. Hancock also highlighted the launch of traineeships, whose purpose is to prepare young people for an apprenticeship as competition for available positions grows tougher.
Another event included on Hancock’s list is the launch of the Trailblazers programme. By enlisting the help of major companies from various industries, the government has moved to ensure that the apprenticeship reforms will bring the desired results, key among them being the provision of skills highly relevant to employers. In ninth place the minister listed the launch of an online tool supplying information on apprenticeship vacancies.
Hancock wrapped up his list with an event of a personal nature but one that has provided him with invaluable insight into the apprentice experience. The event in question is the Job Swap, which saw Hancock trade places with Apprentice of the Year Jenny Westworth.
Despite its capacity for industrial growth, the UK is in danger of falling behind in the global race as a result of its engineering skills gap. In its latest annual report on the state of UK engineering, industry organisation EngineeringUK has called for a doubling of the number of under 19s who take up advanced level engineering apprenticeships and says this is imperative if the country is to ensure its engineering talent pipeline.
According to the publication, the number of under 19s enrolling in advanced engineering apprenticeships dropped by 12.2% in 2011/2012, taking the figure down to 16,280. The negative trend could have an adverse impact on the UK’s growth potential, both at present and in the future. Preliminary figures for 2012/13 reveal a marginal increase in uptake within that age group, but the overall result remains in negative territory.
EngineeringUK has made a number of recommendations in its 2014 report, urging a collaborative approach to the problem. This means that the government, the engineering community, engineering companies and the education sector should work together to keep the talent supply flowing. In addition to doubling the number of under 19s doing advanced engineering apprenticeships, EngineeringUK also called for a twofold rise in engineering graduate numbers. This will be critical for meeting future demand for such graduates and will help address the shortage of physics teachers and engineering lecturers.
The report further urges support for teachers and careers advisors to help them provide students with relevant career information and increase their awareness of the various professional opportunities available in the scientific, technological and engineering sectors. Students should be made to realise the value of STEM subjects for employers and also get the opportunity for hands-on experience in a modern engineering workplace, the report noted.
At the same time, the government wants to reform apprenticeship funding to allow employers to receive funding towards the cost of training apprentices directly from HM Revenue & Customs.
Employers will be able to claim back the training costs from HMRC, although the delivery method is still unclear and yet to be announced. For now the government is studying three alternatives, namely direct payment into the company’s bank account after apprentices have been enrolled, recovery via the pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) system, and a provider model in which trainers make the claim.
With this move, the government aims to ensure that young people have the skills they need to compete and succeed in the global economy and also to lower the number of youngsters who are not in training, education or employment.
Wine supplier Liberty Wines has been running apprenticeship projects for seven years now but has never sought funding from the state because it was “too prescriptive”, its founder, David Gleave, commented for the Telegraph. He added that any changes intended to make the rules more flexible would be welcome.
Data from Chancellor George Osborne shows that the implementation of advanced level apprenticeships has soared 135% over the last three years which is attributed to the fact that a growing number of businesses are introducing training programmes. Overall, around 1.5 million apprenticeships have been started since 2010.