Report Calls For Apprenticeship Issues In Service Sector To Be Addressed

Apprenticeships are essential for combating youth unemployment and helping the UKATG_engineer_240414 build a strong talent base for the future. The government has initiated a series of reforms to improve the apprenticeship system but priority is being given to solving quality issues and raising standards in sectors with acute skill shortages, for example aerospace, automotive and life sciences. This is definitely a positive development but since the UK economy is predominantly service-based, more attention should be given to improvements in service industries.

This is one of the key recommendations made in a new report from The Work Foundation. In an article for the HR Director website, author Katy Jones outlined the major issues addressed in the policy paper. It welcomes the launch of the Trailblazer pilots as a way to give employers the lead in apprenticeship programme development but also calls for the inclusion of more service industries amongst the Trailblazers. Skill shortages may not be as acute in health and social care, business administration and customer service but these are sectors providing the largest number of employment and apprenticeship opportunities to young Britons.

As Jones pointed out, the service sector is the one typically fighting the hardest battle with issues related to apprenticeship quality, educational content and duration. This presents a significant problem because the UK economy is driven by services: the sector provides 85% of UK jobs and is the first destination for most young people entering the labour market. Moreover, the service sector creates the largest number of apprenticeship positions: eight of the top ten industries by apprentice recruitment in 2011/2012 were service industries, with business administration and customer service among them. It is therefore very important to raise apprenticeship standards in the sector, Jones noted.

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Why An Apprenticeship Is Worth The Effort

More and more young Britons are coming to realise that a university degree is no longerATG_electrical_150414 a prerequisite for professional success. In fact, numerous studies have demonstrated that this is clearly not the case. Apprenticeships have proved themselves an excellent route to career progression and the government wants to make them the norm for school leavers who decide against academic pursuits. The problem is that access to apprenticeship information leaves a lot to be desired so many youngsters may be missing out on a great opportunity. For those still unsure how an apprenticeship can benefit them, Not Going To Uni recently presented the most important statistics on the subject.

First of all, potential apprenticeship candidates can expect fully funded training if they are aged 16 to 18. They are also entitled to a minimum hourly pay rate of £2.68 and many employers offer higher wages. According to the Apprenticeship Pay Survey, apprentices get £212 net per week on average. Moreover, an apprenticeship will add an extra £100,000 to a person’s lifetime earnings.

There are about 250 different types of apprenticeships young Britons can choose from, mastering both the theoretical and practical aspects of their chosen profession through learning on the job. Successful completion of the training programme can even open the door to a university degree without the associated debt because employers typically cover those costs. And the chances of securing a job are excellent: up to 95% of apprentices remain employed by the company that recruited them for training. This is hardly surprising since 96% of enterprises report that apprenticeships boost their business.

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Former Education Minister Sees Need For Apprenticeship “Revolution”

The UK government is betting on a string of reforms to improve the apprenticeshipATG_revolution_170414 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.

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Improvement In Apprenticeship Delivery Lies At Heart Of New Programme

At the start of this week, the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) ATG_training_100414announced the launch of a programme designed to improve apprenticeship delivery. Commissioned by the Education and Training Foundation, the Apprenticeship Staff Support Programme (ASSP) will provide £1.5 million in funding to projects that can improve apprenticeship outcomes for both employers and trainees.

Phase One of the programme is already under way and organisations can submit their bids, applying either alone or as part of a consortium, NIACE said. Priority will be given to projects that promote employer involvement in apprenticeship delivery and/or focus on further improvement in curriculum design, teaching, learning and assessment.

The plan is to choose eight to 24 projects in the first phase and distribute up to £717,000 of the total funding pot. If a project turns out to be particularly successful, it will be considered for expansion during Phase Two of the ASSP, which will begin later in the year.

NIACE section director Fiona Aldridge said that apprenticeships had amply demonstrated their importance for the development of vital skills and the provision of support for people to enter work. NIACE is working alongside the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to promote further improvement in apprenticeship quality and ensure fair access for every applicant. The launch of the ASSP is the latest step in that direction and a particularly important one in light of current apprenticeship reforms. The programme will advance efforts to tackle skill shortages through high-quality apprenticeships that cater to the needs of all stakeholders, Aldridge added.

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Apprenticeships: An Important Growth Booster For The SME Sector

The biggest names in the corporate world have long relied on apprenticeships, with ATG_apprentice-training2_080414most top engineering and manufacturing companies running apprenticeship programmes. Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems, BMW, British Airways, Network Rail – these are just a few examples of corporate heavyweights swearing by apprenticeships. The message has reached the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector but more of its representatives should embrace apprenticeships, making the most of government incentives to nurture talent and drive growth, according to Gary David Smith.

In an article for the Training Journal, the IT entrepreneur points out that this is a great time for SMEs to recruit apprentices. In the latest sign of its commitment to the apprenticeship cause, the government recently announced an extra support package: the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers (AGE) scheme will receive a further £170 million and another £20 million will be allocated for support of degree-level and post-graduate apprenticeships. This funding, specifically targeted at the SME sector, is expected to help create 100,000 new apprenticeships. The AGE scheme contributed to the creation of 49,300 new apprenticeships between February 2012 and October 2013, with another 15,800 in the planning stage.

According to Smith, the government’s financial incentives are more than welcome but it is also crucial to deliver properly designed apprenticeships. This means that skills training programmes must aim for “the right balance between learning and doing,” as Smith puts it. He also believes that the government should expand the AGE scheme in a way that makes it possible for SMEs to engage with young people while they are still in full-time education.

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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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Apprenticeships System Needs Focus on Employer Engagement, AELP Chief Says

The government is still is trying to find a way of funding apprenticeships that wouldATG_employer_200314 receive unanimous support from all stakeholders. Its latest consultation includes proposals for a so-called Apprenticeship Credit, which involves direct fund transfer to employers through online bank accounts. The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) sees employer choice in this matter as essential for boosting apprenticeship uptake. Moreover, the organisation believes that driving engagement among employers should be at the heart of any reforms.

This is according to AELP chief executive Stewart Segal, who shared his views in an article for FE News. As Segal points out, the government should focus on improving perceptions and understanding of the apprenticeship system to spur uptake by both employers and young people entering the workforce. There are a number of measures the government can take to achieve these goals.

For starters, understanding would improve significantly if everyone received better career advice and guidance, Segal notes. The AELP also sees the need for a support programme designed to help young people who fail during the apprenticeship application process.

Since employers are a critical link in the apprenticeship chain, the government should make sure the system works in their favour. This could be achieved through a number of actions, among them simpler and more transparent funding rules. Employers should also be able to choose whether they go for a direct contract or partner with a training provider. And it is essential to make it clear to employers that they are free to choose a provider at any stage of the programme, Segal said.

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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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