Thursday, 27 November 2014
Advanced search

Apprentice approval

The UK has seen welcome growth and investment in apprenticeships with more than 450,000 new people signed up in 2010-11, up 63.5 per cent from the previous year.

With the demand for apprenticeships increasing from employers, there needs to be a steady flow of candidates. This is where schools need to change their attitudes and ensure that apprenticeships are mentioned as a viable alternative to university.

September 2012 will see major tuition fee rises applied by the country’s universities, which will likely lead to many potential undergraduates, and future engineers, considering alternatives to a degree.

A recent Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) event, which brought together representatives from the world of academia, training and business, heard from apprentices who revealed that university was encouraged as the best option for a student’s future by their schools. If they were not going to university, they were given little or no help regarding their future options.

“Apprenticeships equip young people with the practical and technical skills valued by employers

The new National Careers Service, launched at the beginning of April, has been welcomed by the IET. It is designed to give people better advice on getting a new job or changing careers altogether. However, with more than 2.5 million people out of work and the unemployment rate rising, the new service will likely have its work cut out.

It is essential that it provides information on vocational courses and apprenticeships as well as the more academic routes.

Apprenticeships equip young people with the key practical and technical skills that are valued by employers. Given the tough economic situation being faced by the engineering and technology sectors, apprenticeships really are a viable alternative to a traditional academic pathway.

At the IET we are committed to helping young engineers and technicians develop their careers and work towards professional registration, whether they are doing degrees or apprenticeships.

Working closely with industry and colleges, we accredit or approve and support a number of apprentice schemes. This means that we examine the content and depth of the qualifications delivered during the apprenticeship. We also look at the quality of the delivery; in other words, the support and work experience given to apprentices during the scheme that will lead to them qualifying as registered engineering technicians or ICT technicians.

Rebalancing the UK’s economy will require qualified, skilled engineers and technicians at all levels. Properly accredited and approved apprenticeship schemes provide a high-quality alternative to traditional academic routes for the country’s future workforce.

Maybe the most obvious benefit of apprenticeships is the reality that apprenticeships can provide participants with the knowledge and skills for an engineering career without having to embark on a university course, which could leave many saddled with debt and an uncertain future. The IET’s most recent skills survey showed that 38 per cent of employers said they expected to employ more apprentices over the next five years. Industry values the combination of work-and knowledge-based learning that apprenticeships can deliver. They produce technicians and engineers with a wide range of experience, both technical and business.

Properly accredited apprenticeship schemes offer apprentices many benefits, including streamlined engineering technician application processes, which will equip them with an internationally recognised engineering qualification.

It is widely recognised that the general public has a very poor perception of engineering and in particular industry. There are many things that the government, colleges, employers and the profession can do to help change this. One is to ensure that engineering is not seen as a dead end - starting an apprenticeship should be seen as the first step into a exciting world with a myriad of opportunities, with clear progression routes from apprentice through to chartered engineer.

We need to promote the fact that apprenticeships provide one route to professional qualifications and university. For example, engineering apprenticeships are being developed that can take a learner up to level six (bachelors level) that include a BEng degree and IEng registration.

While it is concerning that, according to recent reports, some apprenticeship providers have chosen to manipulate the funding situation for their own means, this must not detract from the value of apprenticeships to young people and the wider economy.

The government must not play a ‘numbers game’ but must seek to produce the fully qualified technicians that the UK so desperately needs for the future.

Paul Davies, Head of policy, Institution of Engineering and Technology


Readers' comments (17)

  • We appear to have an abundance of Engineers and technicians. I have struggled for the past two years to start a Craft apprentice. Schools do not teach metal work or woodwork so the children can not use their hands. And have no idea what a craftsman is.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I notice that the article only refers to technicians and not 'Craftsmen' or as in Germany Master Craftsmen'. I believe this lack of attention to these functions is due to the people who create these qualifications (Such as NVQ's) have never worked in a typical practical engineering environment and have poor understanding of the industry. I was lecturing at a plant and agricultural engineering college when the NVQ's were dreamed up. The original concept was a workplace qualification for those people who had entered the engineering world as trainees (ie missed the apprenticeship route). To give them a qualification that meant something, why not assess them on the job in their workplace? For example, you do not have to be a toolmaker to set a mould on an injection moulding machine, but you do have to know what you are doing; someone who can set a mould costing many thousands of pounds should be able to show a valid and worthwhile qualification.

    It was for such a job function the NVQ was intended. It was never meant to sweep away Full Cert C & G craft qualifications nor ONC/D's HNC/D's etc. The current problem with engineering apprenticeships is simple: you need companies practicing engineering!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Agree with the article but would make the following points:
    1. When I did my broad-based engineering apprenticeship back in the '70s, many of the managers around at the time had come via the same route .. and so actually preferred the "experience-based" starters to the pure "theory-based" starters. ONC/HNC etc actually counted for something in those days!
    2. What we now have is a management structure that has predominatly come through university .. and as such see non graduates as pretty much a waste of time.
    3. When you add to that Government interference over the last 20 years+ and the drive towards getting an arbitrary 50% of all secondary school levers to go to university (irrespective of whether the country needed this number of graduates and what qualifications these so-called graduates then had to contribute to society), then you have issues throughout the system.
    4. Government needs to FULLY support PROPER apprenticeships, we need to go back to differentiating between universities, and tech colleges etc, teachers need to provide accurate careers advice for pupils with all sorts of skills sets, and employers within manufacturing need to support this drive as well. It is no good simply having the likes of Tesco offering "apprenticeships" .. as that is not what they are. Let's get real here!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Agree with the article but would make the following points:
    1. When I did my broad-based engineering apprenticeship back in the '70s, many of the managers around at the time had come via the same route .. and so actually preferred the "experience-based" starters to the pure "theory-based" starters. ONC/HNC etc actually counted for something in those days!
    2. What we now have is a management structure that has predominatly come through university .. and as such see non graduates as pretty much a waste of time.
    3. When you add to that Government interference over the last 20 years+ and the drive towards getting an arbitrary 50% of all secondary school levers to go to university (irrespective of whether the country needed this number of graduates and what qualifications these so-called graduates then had to contribute to society), then you have issues throughout the system.
    4. Government needs to FULLY support PROPER apprenticeships, we need to go back to differentiating between universities, and tech colleges etc, teachers need to provide accurate careers advice for pupils with all sorts of skills sets, and employers within manufacturing need to support this drive as well. It is no good simply having the likes of Tesco offering "apprenticeships" .. as that is not what they are. Let's get real here!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I think industry should take a lot of the blame for the why the education system has not in the last twenty years promoted Apprenticeships. If there was a demand then there would have been a supply. If industry needs engineers it should take them on and train them ,not expect the education system to deliver a ready trained and qualified engineer with 5 years relevant experience.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • When I was leaving school 9 years ago after my A levels, I knew that I didn’t want to go to university just to follow my friends. The help and support I got from my "careers advisor" was disgusting. I was made to feel as if I was stupid and because I didn’t want to go to university. At the time, I didn’t know what I wanted to with my life and so going to university would have been a waste of money (all my friends did a business studies degree). I got very little help and as a result, after I finished school, I was left in the wilderness of unemployment and several very unfulfilling jobs for a year. Thanks to my father, he helped me find an engineering apprenticeship with Messier-Dowty who design and produce aerospace landing gear. It turns out, I had a natural talent at manufacture and the problem solving of an engineer of which I should have been able to find whilst at school. Nearly 8 years on I have several qualifications that have cost me nothing other than hard work and am working in a world leader in the Manufacture Engineering department - earning, I may add, more than any of my friends that went to university. Surely the system needs to change so that all schools and young people can see the value of a real apprenticeship? I only hope that when people see the cost of universities today, they will think twice about going to do a degree for the sake of it and take the path of a skilled apprenticeship because the country needs them now more than ever.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I totally Agree if we don't involve the youth from age 15 to 25 in apprentice ship programs we will lose them to being unproductive, as they cannot find jobs because of lack of skills and because the insane cost of university and or a college is unobtainable and unsustainable. We need to give youth purpose and opportunity in this age range and give them skills that they can learn from those currently on the Job. We don't need to increase visa's for any unskilled labor, we need to start apprenticeship programs and after school work programs. for kids.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • We must not forget that we also need to tackle 'Degree Snobbery' ie, when an engineer has taken an apprenticeship and gained many qualifications and several years of experience, that they are not overlooked for someone who has a degree for the simple fact that they have a degree. Perhaps even having more professional development schemes for such engineers, certificated, these should be worth the same, if not more, than a bog standard degree and will ensure that there is no 'ceiling' for the hardworking engineers career.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Very much agree with the 'Degree Snobbery' comment. I complete my apprenticeship with a very large international vacuum pump company. They also sponsored my HND which I completed after my training had finished. However, when applying for internal roles with the work 'Engineer' in the title, I was rejected simply because I didn't have a degree. Astounding really. I now have a degree from the Open University, which I worked incredibly hard for "But it's not a real degree really is it?"...... Apprenticeships are a fantastic way of training future Engineers but they are not given any where near as much recognition or publicity as they deserve. Promotion needs to start early in Schools preferably by people that have done the training themselves and can make it sound as brilliant as it is.
    Unfortunately I have not had the same luck as the previous poster - I am now a 'Sales Engineer (!)' and have been looking for a proper Engineers role for a while. However, being female, married and with no children my chances of ever getting another job are non-existent!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Charles Beecham said:

    " If industry needs engineers it should take them on and train them ,not expect the education system to deliver a ready trained and qualified engineer with 5 years relevant experience."

    I completely agree. The barrier "lacking experience" is what is keeping me out of the engineering sector.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

View results 10 per page | 20 per page

Have your say

Mandatory
Mandatory
Mandatory
Mandatory

My saved stories (Empty)

You have no saved stories

Save this article