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.
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.
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.
For all the attention apprenticeships have been enjoying in recent years, many people continue to regard them as something less academically inclined youngsters turn to. According to Suzie Webb, director of education at the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT), this misconception should be addressed by all stakeholders, most notably the government, training providers and educational institutions. Young Britons need to be given a clear message that there are many reasons to consider an apprenticeship and academic aptitude has nothing to do with it, Webb writes in an article for the Huffington Post.
From a financial point of view, career goals pursued through an apprenticeship will not saddle youngsters with massive debts. Vocational training is becoming all the more attractive as university tuition fees go up. But this is only one benefit of choosing an apprenticeship over academic study. As apprenticeship advocates never tire of stressing, apprentices have the amazing opportunity to gain hands-on work experience, not to mention that they get paid a salary in the process.
It has become clear that a university degree rarely prepares young people for handling the realities of everyday work. With apprenticeships, learners accumulate invaluable first-hand knowledge of their chosen industry, which in turn helps them build confidence and set their professional sights higher, Webb says. Another great thing is that apprenticeships have been embraced by virtually all industries and the variety of roles on offer is impressive. Young people can train for less demanding positions and gradually build on that or opt for a more challenging role. It also needs to be stressed that apprentices are highly valued by employers for their practical skills and most trainees become permanent members of staff at the company that recruited them, Webb adds.
The UK government is betting on a string of reforms to improve the apprenticeship system. But according to Lord Adonis, who served as education minister between 2005 and 2008, the UK needs a “revolution” in apprenticeships, which should include a specific focus on youth apprenticeships and bring about a significant increase both in apprenticeship quality and quantity, the Huffington Post reported.
Lord Adonis made these remarks during a skills debate taking part within the annual conference of the British Chambers of Commerce. Addressing his audience, the former Labour government minister described the number of apprenticeships that are available only for up to 12 months as “unacceptable”. He went on to declare that the system clearly needs a fundamental overhaul, especially in the area of youth apprenticeships. It is not enough to make incremental improvements in quality and quantity: a step change is required, he insisted.
According to Lord Adonis, the government should work alongside schools and employers to address an issue of particular importance, namely the quality of career advice received by students. It definitely leaves a lot to be desired and teachers are generally unable to provide proper guidance on apprenticeships and vocational training. That issue will not be resolved without prompt action and Lord Adonis advocates the introduction of “senior” people whose main responsibility will be maintaining contact with local employers and helping young people secure apprentice positions. UK schools should have people with a keen understanding of the local employment landscape and employers, encouraging the latter to create more apprenticeship opportunities for local youngsters and providing advice to young people, Lord Adonis said.
Many companies in the Thames Valley region find it hard to recruit young people with the right skills. It is therefore hardly surprising that they consider apprenticeships very important for building their talent base, stating that vocational training beats university when it comes to preparing young people for working life.
This has been established through the first Skills, Education and Recruitment Survey in the region. Led by hiring specialist Hays, the poll involved about 100 local enterprises.
The results showed that 58% of employers were primarily driven to recruit in order to grow their business. But finding people with the right skills proves a challenge for 61% of Thames Valley companies. According to 68% of the sample, apprenticeships do a better job than universities at getting young people ready for work life.
Local employers rank attitude as the top criterion for candidate suitability. For 73% of companies, attitude trumps qualifications and experience in the choice of new staff.
Commenting on the survey results, Hays Specialist Recruitment managing director Mark Sheldon said that more and more employers were looking for people with a learning aptitude. Companies are increasingly prioritising a candidate’s ability to learn new skills over their current expertise and experience. Now that the economy has returned to growth, more employment opportunities will be springing up and business organisations will have to work harder to attract and retain employees. Training and skills development should be included in the whole package employers put on offer so that they can build a workforce prepared for the constantly changing business environment, Sheldon added.
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.
The high level of youth unemployment has firmly focused attention on apprenticeships as a critical means of addressing the problem. The benefits of vocational training for both young people and employers was highlighted during National Apprenticeship Week 2014, which ran from 3-7 March. But this celebration of apprenticeships and their contribution to the national economy also provided another opportunity to identify areas where more work needs to be done, Sarah Champion MP writes in a post on the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) blog.
At present the number of NEETs tops one million. In other words, that many young Britons are not in education, employment or training. Apprenticeships have proved a highly viable option for these young people, giving them the opportunity to gain practical skills and work experience and thus pave their way to a rewarding career. This also works to the advantage of employers as they benefit from the enthusiasm and fresh perspective of their young recruits.
However, the fact remains that the government still has its work cut out when it comes to meeting apprenticeship demand, Champion points out. While more apprentice positions are created every year, the number of applications far exceeds that of apprenticeship vacancies. Think tank research has shown there are only 11 apprentice positions for every 1,000 jobs in England. If the UK is to achieve sustained economic growth in the long term, the government must invest seriously in the country’s future talent base and do so without delay. For that reason, Champion supports the BCC call for a focus on youth skills and training in the forthcoming Budget. The organisation has urged Chancellor George Osborne to put apprenticeship investment among his priorities and Champion believes this is the proper course of action to ensure the future prosperity of the UK economy.