Today marks the start of National Apprenticeship Week, a subject close the hearts of at least two prominent figures that spoke at EEF’s National Manufacturing Conference in February.
Matthew Hancock, minister of state for business, energy and enterprise wants to make it ‘the new norm’ for school leavers to enter an apprenticeship or take a place at university.
Labour leader Ed Miliband echoed these sentiments when he said that a 10-year plan should be put in place for as many 18 years olds to go onto apprenticeships as currently go to university.
‘To build the economy we need for the 21st century we need all of our young people to be developing the skills necessary to compete in the modern world,’ Miliband told delegates, adding that a place on an apprenticeship scheme would be guaranteed for all 18 year olds who reached the required level of attainment in school.
He added that this availability would be good for apprentices, good for business and good for Britain as a whole.
The fiscal benefits were highlighted today with the publication of a report from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), which found that a typical apprentice in the engineering and manufacturing sector ‘delivers long-term productivity gains of almost £20,000 per annum (£19,872) almost double that of a typical apprentice (£10,000) in other sectors’.
Furthermore, CEBR have found that five million consumers would prefer to do business with apprentice employers, and a quarter would pay a price-premium for services or products that ’champion apprentices’.
Further analysis has been produced by Demos. The cross-party think tank has published a report showing that 92 per cent of parents believe apprenticeships are a good option for young people. A further 77 per cent feel the number of young people doing one should be higher than the seven per cent who are currently enrolled, but just under a third (32 per cent) think that an apprenticeship would be the best option for their own child.
Just under a fifth (19 per cent) of parents had been spoken to by their child’s school about apprenticeships, compared to 45 per cent have had a conversation about their child going to university.
The report goes onto show that slightly over half of respondents (52 per cent) think that university would still be the best option for their children as the poll reveals there is still a perception by many parents that apprenticeships are only for the less academically able rather than for high achievers.
Try telling that to a number of the UK’s engineering companies, where, for example, former craft apprentices have gone onto to complete degree courses and are now firmly entrenched as senior managers. They can say they’ve ‘done the tools’ as well as the book learning, should they feel inclined to remind a fresh graduate of their credentials.
Hancock was born in 1978, a time when, for example, the CEGB was still training said craft apprentices. He told the conference that by the time he growing up in the 1990s there ‘were virtually no apprenticeships at all, they were very small in number and more or less died out as a concept.’
The number of apprenticeships may have dwindled and they are not helped by some of today’s so-called ‘apprenticeship schemes’ that are nothing more than training programs of varying lengths that help to fudge youth unemployment figures and short change the very people they are meant to benefit. Provide training to young people? Certainly, but don’t misappropriate the word apprentice or apprenticeship because there was a time when it actually meant something to be a time served apprentice.
Take Rolls-Royce, where around 30 per cent of its senior UK managers began their careers on one of company’s apprenticeship schemes and where at any one time around 750 apprenticeships are going through their paces with the engineering giant. And take Britain following the general election, a nation where the apprentice is set to flourish now that the political will is assured.