New Report Delves Into Familiar Issue: Engineering Skills Shortage

The manufacturing sector is a critical part of the UK economy but the shortage ofATG_engineers_130514 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.

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Semta Leads Push For Gender Diversity In Engineering Sector

As part of its Budget announcement in March, the UK government pledged to createATG_engineering_030414 100,000 new Apprentices in the SME sector. Semta, the UK sector skills council for science, engineering and manufacturing, wants many of these new Apprenticeships to involve engineering training and half of them to feature women in the role of Apprentice Engineers. Semta is committed to attracting more girls to the engineering profession and believes that a larger proportion of women in the sector will deliver benefits for the entire economy.

As part of its drive to change the status quo, Semta is supporting a number of events across the country. Their aim is to raise the profile of engineering among women and help get more female representatives onto management teams.

Commenting on the initiatives, Semta CEO Sarah Sillars noted that women account for just 22% of the advanced manufacturing and engineering workforce. Within that group, only 9% are women qualified as engineers, scientists or technologists and just 5% hold managerial positions. Given that half of all UK employees are women, these figures demonstrate the wealth of talent waiting to be tapped. If the country is to maintain its position as a world-class manufacturer, this skills pipeline has to be kept flowing, Sillars said.

She went on to add that Semta would be partnering with employers, educators, career advisers and young people throughout the year to reinforce the messages spread by key events such as National Apprenticeship Week and Tomorrow’s Engineers Week. It must become clear that girls are just as good as boys at engineering and more young women should pursue training in that field. If the UK has more female engineers and more women on sector management teams, the ultimate beneficiary will be society as a whole, Sillars stated.

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NAW 2014 Concludes With Promise Of 20,000+ New Apprentice Positions

National Apprenticeship Week 2014 was a welcome reminder of the tremendous ATG_NAW2014_110314importance of vocational training to businesses, individuals and the economy as a whole. It also highlighted the growing popularity of apprenticeships among companies of all sizes, with employers pledging to create over 20,000 new positions for young people interested in learning on the job and earning money at the same time.

Hundreds of UK firms took the opportunity to unveil plans for apprentice recruitment. Some big companies have committed to creating thousands of new apprentice positions: Lloyds Banking Group, for example, pledged to recruit 5,000 apprentices, while Greene King and Whitbread each announced plans to create 2,000 positions. Other big enterprises making a commitment to apprenticeships included Mitchells & Butlers, Starbucks, EE, Virgin Media and BT. Perhaps even more encouraging is the fact that small and medium-sized enterprises are embracing apprenticeships: 47% of the businesses intent on recruiting apprentices are within that sector.

Commenting on the positive news, Business Secretary Vince Cable said that the government was steadily obliterating the “damaging divide” between vocational training and academic learning. Support for apprenticeships has become a top government priority and two million apprenticeships are set to be created over the course of this parliament.

Cable went on to add that the huge success of National Apprenticeship Week 2014 had confirmed the growing importance of apprenticeships for UK business. It is estimated that apprentices are already making a £1.8 billion contribution to the national economy and the new employer commitments will allow thousands of young Britons to benefit from the career opportunities created by vocational training and help UK companies grow in the process, Cable concluded.

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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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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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Threat To Engineering Talent Supply Calls For Greater Industry Efforts To Inspire Young People

The shrinking pool of UK engineering talent has been a common topic in mediaATG_young-engineer_180214 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.

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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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EngineeringUK Report Highlights Need For More Effort On Apprenticeship Front

Last year, EngineeringUK called on the industry, government and the wider scienceATG_engineering_300114 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.

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Hertfordshire Youngsters Crowned Champions In WorldSkills UK Engineering Competition

Two teenagers have made Hertfordshire proud of its engineering talent. Daniel RoweATG_WorldSkillsUK_210114 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.

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