UK Engineering, Manufacturing Firms Increasingly Bet On Apprenticeships

The start of National Apprenticeship Week 2014 was marked by the release of severalATG_engineering_060314 research reports highlighting the importance of apprenticeships and their growing popularity among employers. One set of findings came from the UK manufacturers’ association EEF, which has found that local manufacturing and engineering companies are increasingly depending on apprentices to tackle the skills shortage problem, Automation magazine reports.

According to the EEF study, 60% of UK engineering and manufacturing firms have recruited an apprentice in the past year. In further good news, more than two-thirds plan to take on engineering and manufacturing apprentices in the 12 months ahead. With the majority (75%) typically bringing in trainees aged 16 to 18, it is apparent that apprenticeships have become critical for building the country’s future talent base.

Commenting on the findings, EEF apprentice and skills director Peter Winebloom said it was great to see that UK engineering and manufacturing firms are actively recruiting apprentices. It is even more encouraging that this practice is growing in popularity. The looming skills gap is a massive challenge for the sector and apprenticeships can help tackle that problem. Moreover, unless the UK has a sufficient supply of engineering and manufacturing talent it will not be able to realise its economic growth potential.

But apprenticeships are not just a means of injecting fresh blood into the sector, Winebloom added. We should not forget their importance for the young people who choose that road: for them, apprenticeships represent the launch pad to professional development and career growth, he pointed out.

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20% Of SMEs Plan Apprentice Recruitment Within 12 Months

It is encouraging during National Apprenticeship Week to see the results of a new studyATG_new-apprentice_040314 among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) concerning their apprenticeship plans. According to the research, 20% of SMEs intend to take on at least one apprentice in the 12 months ahead, while 39% plan to make apprenticeships part of their strategy within five years, Real Business reports.

Conducted by the Institute of Commercial Management, the poll also revealed that 29% of SMEs see apprentice take-up as part of their core growth strategy. In a sign that apprenticeships are becoming more popular, nearly 50% of SMEs said they were now more likely to create apprenticeship positions than two years ago. Moreover, 33% stated that they were ready to take on apprentices because employing them had become easier.

Commenting on the research results, Business Secretary Vince Cable said it was great to see the value of apprenticeships being increasingly recognised by employers. Businesses of all sizes have come to regard apprentices as very important and valued members of their staff.

Cable went on to add that he was immensely proud of the work the current government had done in promoting apprenticeships and the resulting surge in apprentice employment. A key part of the government’s strategy is support for SMEs so it is particularly good to see that the grants made available are spurring apprenticeships in this sector. Apprentice recruitment has now come to be considered a vital element of sustainable growth strategies, Cable concluded.

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Milton Keynes MP Calls For Greater Emphasis On Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships offer young people the opportunity to make a strong start to theirATG_apprentice_200214 career and vocational qualifications should be given greater emphasis, according to Milton Keynes MP Iain Stewart. For quite a while now, it has been clear that university is not the right choice for all school leavers and they should be provided with information about all the alternatives out there, Stewart said.

The local MP made his comments after touring the Milton Keynes-based National Learning Centre of Volkswagen Group, Business MK reported. The establishment serves as a training base for more than 740 apprentices and prepares VW workers from all over the country. During his visit, Stewart talked to apprentices enrolled in the Advanced Apprenticeship Programme. He was told that 90% on average complete the programme and nearly every successful apprentice gets a job offer from the company.

Stewart said that VW’s apprenticeship programme was an example of what vocational training can offer. Motivated and ambitious young people have too long been led to believe that their only choice is university if they want professional recognition. This is obviously not the case, so young Britons should be familiar with the alternatives. Stewart expressed hope that the promotion of apprenticeships would be given greater focus in the years ahead.

David Sterling, who is in charge of learning services at the VW centre, said that the facility trained more than 20,000 retail staff members every year, apprentices included. The comments made by Stewart come as very welcome recognition for the work done at the centre and the achievements of the apprentices, Sterling added.

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Common Misconceptions That Keep Youngsters Away From Apprenticeships

More and more UK school leavers are becoming aware that university is not the rightATG_youngapprentice_040214 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.

Another myth stopping youngsters from pursuing the apprenticeship route is the erroneous belief that their job prospects will not be improved. This is definitely not the case and numerous studies have provided proof to the contrary. According to recent research by the Office for National Statistics, 85% of apprentices stay in employment and 64% get a job at the company where they completed their training.

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.

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Search Is Formally On For UK’s Best Apprentices, Employers

The National Apprenticeship Awards opened for entries at the start of this week (3 APP_Logo_Col_5185February), formally launching the search for the best UK apprentices and apprentice employers. The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), which runs the awards, said that nominations would be accepted until 28 March 2014.

Skills Minister Matthew Hancock highlighted the critical importance of apprenticeships for fostering ambition and helping people build rewarding careers. Apprenticeships also promote competitiveness and drive economic growth. The National Apprenticeship Awards offer apprentices and employers the opportunity to receive their due recognition, not least because of the example they set for other young people and business organisations, Hancock added.

One young person determined to be a worthy role model and help raise the profile of apprenticeships is Chloe Gains. A former IT apprentice at Barclays, Chloe snatched the 2013 title of City & Guilds National Apprenticeship Champion. She pointed out that her apprenticeship had opened amazing career opportunities for her and she was now keen to bring the word to other young people across the country.

Birmingham-based Walter Smith Fine Foods, which was recognised in 2013 as Nuclear Decommissioning Site Licence Companies Medium Employer of the Year, is also full of praise for apprenticeships. Company HR director Paul Cadman said that apprenticeships had delivered numerous benefits to the business. Training young people allows Walter Smith Fine Foods to ensure that its staff have the right skills for the business. Cadman also noted that all shop managers were former company apprentices, which is proof that hard work and ambition pay off even without a university degree.

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27% Of University Graduates Have Lower Income Than Former Apprentices

Many young people have worked hard to get into university, sustained by the hope that ATG_employees_230114their efforts will pay off in the form of enhanced lifetime earnings. This is what politicians usually use as their argument when they want to push more young people towards academic study. However, new figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) indicate that an apprenticeship could prove more valuable for many youngsters. The website Not Going to Uni has done some calculations which show that graduates can end up earning less than employees who have completed an apprenticeship.

According to the ONS research, 27% of university graduates currently earn less than former apprentices. In addition, 26% of lower-paid graduates were found to be doing part-time jobs, while the proportion for employees with an apprenticeship was 11%.

Not Going to Uni delves deeper into the matter, tackling some numbers typically cited by politicians defending their focus on academic study. According to the most popular statistics, a university degree is likely to add some £150,000 to a person’s lifetime earnings. The estimate for those with an apprenticeship on their CV is for an additional £100,000 or more. But there is one major flaw in these popular statistics: they do not take into account the money spent on obtaining a degree. This will cost at least £53,000 and the figure can be much higher for those studying in London. As Not Going to Uni notes, that level of debt erases any advantages a degree may offer in terms of earning power and leaves graduates with lower lifetime earnings than former apprentices.

For more information on Apprenticeships and the current vacancies that exist visit

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90.7% Of West Berkshire Youngsters Choose Further Education Or Apprenticeships

West Berkshire stands out as one of the areas in the South East with the highestATG_youngpeople_191213 proportion of 16- and 17-year-olds going into further education or apprenticeships upon leaving school. Among the region’s 3,210 young people, 90.7% have taken one of these routes and some of the credit goes to local employers for providing more apprenticeship opportunities, the Reading Chronicle reports.

According to the latest official statistics, which cover the 12 months to 30 June 2013, the number of West Berkshire youngsters in further education, apprenticeships or learning-based employment rose by 4.1%. Thanks to local employers, 4.5% of young people have become involved in government-backed apprenticeship schemes. This means that West Berkshire has one of the highest apprenticeship rates.

Data for the whole of England shows that 88.4% of 16- and 17-year-olds have opted for further education or vocational training after school. In the South East, the proportion stands at 87.4%.

Irene Neill, executive councillor for education for West Berkshire, said that the ongoing improvement in the area was very good news. The fact that more youngsters are choosing further education and apprenticeships bodes well for West Berkshire’s economic future since such choices will deliver benefits for young people and employers alike. But while the latest statistics are pleasing, local authorities do not intend to rest on their laurels. They will keep working to ensure that all young people have the support they need to pursue their chosen path, be it in further education or apprenticeships, Neill added.

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Training Providers Proving Their Worth Under New CIF

Creating more apprenticeship opportunities for young people is seen as critical for ATG_training_171213addressing youth unemployment and securing the UK’s future talent base. However, the achievement of this objective is closely tied to success in another area: the delivery of high-quality training. In view of that, the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) is pleased with the results of the Ofsted inspections carried out in the past year, which reveal a substantial rise in the number of independent training providers receiving a good or outstanding rating.

The 2012/2013 report shows that 67% of training providers scored good or outstanding rates under the new Common Inspection Framework (CIF). In comparison, their proportion stood at 60% in the preceding year. The AELP also expressed great satisfaction with the number of providers achieving higher grades: 32% of those inspected scored higher than a year earlier. At the same time, the proportion of providers getting lower grades dropped to 16%.

As the AELP noted in its comments on the Ofsted report, companies delivering apprentice training face specific challenges but they are increasingly proving themselves up to the task. On-the-job training requires of them the ability to manage effectively and maintain standards across different workplace environments, learner groups of varying size and, in some cases, several sites. Stewart Segal, chief executive of the AELP, said that independent training providers were offering a flexible service and proving capable of meeting the needs of employers. These are key elements of the new CIF and critical factors for effective training delivery, Segal added.

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UK Needs Massive Increase In Advanced Engineering Apprentices Under 19

Despite its capacity for industrial growth, the UK is in danger of falling behind in theATG_apprentices_121213 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.


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UK Government Invests £40m In Apprenticeships, Plans Funding Reform

The UK government has revealed plans to invest an extra £40 million to increase theATG_HMTreasury_101213 number of people starting higher apprenticeships, enabling 20,000 more people to develop high-level skills, according the Autumn Statement 2013 published on the government’s website.

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.

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