Learning and lobbying

News editor

Apprenticeships, pre-Budget lobbying and the finance and skills needed for new nuclear build come under the spotlight this week

Today marks the start of National Apprenticeship Week, a series of events taking place around England designed to celebrate apprenticeships and the positive effect they can have on apprentices and businesses alike.

This year’s theme is Apprenticeships Deliver, a view backed up today by a forecast that predicts apprenticeship completions will add over £3bn to the economy within a decade.

This is the view taken by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) whose report, Productivity Matters: The impact of Apprenticeships on the UK economy, forecasts that between 2012-13 and 2021-22, 3.8 million people will complete an apprenticeship.

They estimate this would contribute £3.4bn to the UK economy a year in productivity gains by 2022, adding that the average apprenticeship completer increases business productivity by £214 per week.

Productivity gains from former apprentices vary according to industry sector with engineering and manufacturing seeing the greatest gains at £414 per week, followed by construction and planning at £401.

The number of annual Apprenticeship completions is forecast to rise across all sectors of the economy over the coming decade, growing from an annual 260,000 in 2012/13 to 480,000 by 2021/22. According to the CEBR’s predictions, there will be 81,000 Apprenticeship completions in the engineering & manufacturing sector by 2021/22, compared to 38,000 in 2012/13.

Vince Cable, secretary of state for Business, Innovation and Skills said, ‘Since 2010 we have had over a million people start an apprenticeship in the UK. But I want to see more small and medium businesses reap the benefits of apprenticeships which is why we have introduced a £1,500 incentive for SMEs who take on a young person.’

Late last week EEF and skills body Semta announced that they’re working with employers to formulate a multi-million pound bid to draw funding for advanced manufacturing and engineering firms to deliver the skills required for growth and competitiveness through the Employment Ownership of Skills (EOS) Fund.

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The issue of account number portability is one of many raised today by EEF in its Budget Submission, which also calls for funds from governmental underspend to be invested into infrastructure projects.

EEF also urged government to exercise caution on its proposed Single Pot of public funding into which the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) could bid (see this Viewpoint feature for more).

In a statement, the manufacturers’ organisation called for ‘clear evidence that devolving control of funding delivers better value for money and that LEPs have the capacity to take on responsibilities before any money is put into the Single Pot.’

EEF calls also for the government to commit to long-term compensation for energy intensive industries from environmental taxes, and to commit to keeping decisions on skills funding national rather than devolve them to LEPs.

The Chancellor, George Osborne, will deliver his Budget speech on March 20, 2013.

Last week The Engineer reported on warnings from MPs who believe the UK needs alternative ideas to ensure the building of a new generation of nuclear power stations in case current plans collapse.

Operators want a price guarantee for energy generated from their plants, assuming finance is available to build them in the first place.

According to yesterday’s Sunday Times, it is likely to cost EDF £14bn to build new reactors at Hinkley Point and Centrica’s withdrawal from the project has left the French utility holding exploratory talks with several pension funds.

As yesterday’s report stated, none of them will invest until government can provide assurances on how much it willing to guarantee in subsidies.

Behind the scenes are those who are ready to bring a wealth of experience to nuclear new build and tomorrow sees an event taking place in Manchester will look at the practicalities through global case studies.

The IET Nuclear New Build Seminar is bringing together China’s SNPTC (State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation), AMEC and the Dalton Nuclear Centre to address various aspects of new build.

SNPTC will discuss its experiences in delivering AP1000 reactor units in China, giving attendees an insight into their construction and commissioning experiences, along with examples of project management, engineering challenges and further development.

AMEC will discuss their involvement with various new builds in the UK, UAE and East Europe; and Dalton Nuclear Centre will provide an insight into education compliance of skills and resource challenges.

Finally, Innovate UK 2013 kicks off today at the Business Design Centre in London.

The event, which combines the Technology Strategy Board’s Innovate and UK Trade & Investment’s TechWorld, is expected to bring together 4,000 people from UK and international business, government and academia to do business.

The Engineer’s Stuart Nathan and Stephen Harris will be in attendance to bring the best stories from the show. In the interim, Ian Gray, chief executive of TSB, explains the aims and themes of Innovate UK 2013 here.