Skills Minister Matthew Hancock used a speech this week to once again emphasise the importance of apprenticeship reforms. Addressing the audience at the annual conference of the Association of Education Learning Providers (AELP), Hancock pointed out that training quality would benefit from giving employers control over apprenticeship design and funding.
Young people are increasingly coming to see apprenticeships as a viable path to professional success, the minister said. He added that this was the right time for reform of the apprenticeship system to help the UK sustain its economic growth in the future.
As part of the reforms, the government has set up the so-called Trailblazer groups. These employer groups will participate in trials of the funding reforms in 2014 and 2015. Under the new provisions, businesses will get £2 from the government for every £1 they have invested in apprentice training. There will be a limit to the state-provided funds, which will be determined by the nature of the apprenticeship.
The minister commented that the goal is to make apprenticeships the “first choice” for big and small companies alike. By demonstrating its commitment to the reforms, the government is hoping that more companies will be convinced to embrace apprenticeships.
The reform package also includes additional incentives to encourage apprenticeship completion, uptake by small enterprises and enrolment by young people aged 16 to 18. According to Hancock, this simple and fair system will put employers in control of training initiatives in the future.
Vocational qualifications are a great way for youngsters to obtain essential skills. Gaining experience will allow apprentices to realise their full potential and help their employers in the process. High-quality apprenticeships are therefore essential both for learners and employers and the government is counting on the support of the business community to ensure that quality, Hancock said.
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.
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.
Just like any other sector, logistics needs to ensure it has the necessary talent to enable future growth. While logistics sector operators acknowledge the importance of employee training and development, many among them fail to achieve the desired results for one reason or another. Recent research conducted by Skills for Logistics has highlighted the need for greater focus on the adequate provision of information relating to staff training and skills development in the logistics sector.
As the organisation established, 36% of sector employers harboured doubts about the current situation, expressing the belief that the currently available training programmes and qualifications did not adequately reflect the skill needs of the logistics sector. Meanwhile, 10% of the companies that had not partnered with a training provider attributed this to their lack of knowledge on the matter.
Skills for Logistics has the responsibility to provide information and tools promoting workforce development. The Sector Skills Council for the UK’s logistics industry is also in charge of providing advice on training options and solutions. It conducts its work in partnership with employers, recruiters and training providers, seeking to bring to light all the opportunities for skills development.
One of the ways in which Skills for Logistics demonstrates its commitment to the staff training cause is through its round table events. A new discussion is scheduled to take place next week, on 8 April, bringing together industry and training representatives for an exchange of views on the skills and training challenges facing the sector.
With a host of Apprenticeships currently available in the Thames Valley, applications are sought for the roles available on www.atgapprenticeships.com.
An example of the interesting opportunities companies offer is Rolls-Royce Motor Cars who are looking for apprentices, with the successful applicants set to start in August 2014, the company announced this week.
The Apprenticeship Programme will select young people who will join forces with the company’s teams in various roles, including assembly, engineering, paint, wood and leather, Rolls-Royce said.
This will be the seventh consecutive year of the company’s Apprenticeship Programme. It is open to people aged between 16 and 24 and provides applicants with the chance to be trained at a leading engineering company and to experience luxury car manufacturing processes first-hand. The programme has been developed in collaboration with the Learning Skills Council and several colleges.
Those that are approved for the apprenticeship will go through a training scheme lasting up to four years, while at the same time studying for nationally recognised qualifications, the company explained. Recently the programme was extended to cover business areas, and the first business apprentices were selected this year.
The recruitment process has been designed to ensure that only the best applicants are chosen. Those that successfully complete the apprenticeship will be given the opportunity to stay with the company and continue to advance in their professional paths.
Young people who want to take part in Rolls-Royce’s Apprenticeship Programme can apply online on the company website.
The fight against youth unemployment in the Thames Valley has received a major boost in the form of £2.4 million for investment in related initiatives. The money will come from the Youth Contract programme and will support councils and businesses in Reading, West Berkshire, Wokingham, Bracknell, Slough and Windsor & Maidenhead to get more young people into work, as well as provide them with tailored training opportunities.
This is the latest City Deal to get the go-ahead from the government and its signing is of tremendous importance for young people and employers in the Thames Valley Berkshire area. As announced by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the deal will support initiatives to prepare 16- to 24-year-olds in the region for the world of work. Over the next three years, 4,500 local youngsters are expected to benefit from the deal.
Support will be provided through the creation of 1,500 new work experience placements and an additional 300 apprenticeships. Eligible businesses across the area will benefit from 800 new Youth Contract Wage Incentives. The deal terms stipulate that the employment and skills opportunities need to clearly reflect the needs of local youngsters to help them secure jobs. The £2.4 million provided by the government will be matched by the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership, which will count on local businesses to secure private sector investment.
Clegg said that City Deals were all about solving local problems through local solutions by adopting innovative approaches. Tackling youth unemployment is at the heart of these deals and the latest one will benefit all stakeholders in Thames Valley Berkshire. Providing local young people with valuable skills will also help businesses in the area, allowing them to grow and contribute to local prosperity, Clegg added.
UK employers and industry organisations use every opportunity to sound the alarm over the impending shortage of engineering skills. The government is hoping that apprenticeships will provide a solution to the problem and numerous efforts are being made to raise their profile among young Britons. Sometimes youngsters do not need any help to realise that the best route to their desired profession is an apprenticeship. This is the case with two 18-year-olds in Faringdon, Oxfordshire, who have opted for vocational training over university in pursuit of their engineering dreams, the Oxford Times has reported.
The two youngsters are Patrick Andrews and Jake Thompson, who have begun their apprenticeships at engineering and building consultancy QODA Consulting. Jake has previously worked on assorted Tower of London projects, while Patrick has contributed to plans for a Gloucestershire biomass energy centre.
Commenting on his decision, Jake said that an apprenticeship offered him the opportunity to get hands-on experience in the field he had chosen. Jake noted that engineering had always held an attraction for him but since school-based learning had never been his thing, vocational training provided him with the perfect solution. He also said that a university course would have given him far less knowledge than his training on the job.
Patrick listed several reasons that had made him choose an apprenticeship over university. The training he receives will pave the way for a sponsored degree but that is only one of the advantages. The young man noted that he was secure in the knowledge that he had a paid job and would end up with practical experience that a university degree could not bestow.
No economy stands a chance of sustainable growth unless it has a steady supply of skilled workers. The importance of apprenticeships for ensuring that supply is profound and widely acknowledged. But there is still some way to go before vocational training is unanimously perceived as a highly attractive and highly regarded opportunity for young people starting their career journey and adults looking to enter a new professional field. The key to achieving that is quality and it should be associated with all apprenticeships, regardless of the company offering them, according to Toni Fazaeli, CEO of the Institute for Learning.
In an article for the Information Daily, Fazaeli says that world-class apprenticeships are characterised by three things. Firstly, they offer training at a very high standard, both on and off the job, and this training is delivered by professionals with level 5 qualifications. Secondly, a top-quality apprenticeship includes excellent maths and English tuition because literacy and numeracy are considered crucial for employability and career progression. Finally, young people will not be attracted to vocational training unless successful apprentices can count on status and definite career prospects.
Fazaeli notes further that the media should do more to give apprenticeships the coverage they deserve. It can hardly be expected of young people to consider apprenticeships as an option when schools and universities dominate the news. Part of the responsibility for spreading the word also lies with school career advisers, who should take every opportunity to inform young people about the variety of careers they can pursue through apprenticeships.
The UK has a long history of engineering excellence and Semta is sparing no effort to ensure that the future is equally bright for this highly valuable profession. The organisation responsible for promoting skills in the engineering and advanced manufacturing sectors is convinced that the future growth of the UK economy will depend on keeping these sectors well supplied with talent. To celebrate all the people working to make that possible, Semta is launching the Semta Skills Awards.
The inaugural awards ceremony will take place on 12 February 2014 at the Park Plaza in London. Engineering apprentices will compete in two categories: Apprentice of The Year and Higher Apprentice of The Year. There will also be an award for the best training provider and the top graduate. The rest of the categories are Skills Champion of The Year, Skills Innovation of The Year and SME Investment in Skills. The winners in these categories will then go on to compete for the final and greatest recognition: the Best of British Engineering Award.
Semta’s chief executive Sarah Sillars said that the UK still boasted the best engineers in the world and the awards were a way of celebrating the best and brightest among them. These are the people who will inspire future generations through their achievements and dedication. The awards reflect Semta’s relentless efforts to ensure that the UK will never find itself short of engineering talent and the organisation is making solid progress towards bridging the skills gap, Sillars added.
Ed Miliband has garnered lots of media attention with his plan to promote high-qualityapprenticeships and help the UK maintain its skills base. At the recent Labour Party conference, the party leader outlined a policy under which UK employers would be required to take on an apprentice for every non-EU worker joining their staff. Last week, The Engineer published the findings of its reader poll on Labour’s plan, revealing a mixed attitude towards the idea.
Miliband’s policy envisions the recruitment of an apprentice for every Tier 2 non-EU immigrant employed by a UK company. These are foreigners admitted into the country because of their highly valuable skills. By providing an apprentice with equivalent skills, UK employers would ensure the availability of highly skilled workers for the UK economy, Miliband claims.
So how do readers of The Engineer feel about this balancing act? According to 44% of them, the policy would have no impact because it would only apply to non-EU workers, while 39% expressed the belief that it would have a positive effect on the domestic skills base. For 16% of the sample, the plan raises concerns that local employers would be put off recruiting foreign talent, thus negatively affecting a skills base that relies on overseas workers.
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) is among the industry organisations that believe there are better ways of promoting apprenticeships and helping the UK nurture its future talent. According to the BCC, better results would be achieved by offering apprentice employers financial incentives and urging schools to give greater attention to work skills, The Engineer said.
Spokesman for a provider of Apprenticeships, ATG Training commenting said ‘Policy matters have major impacts on the training market and any proposed changes need to be fully debated, with industry SME’s having a key role in the future economic output of Great Britain PLC’.