It has been refreshing to see the Government, local authorities and employer bodies get behind what appears to be a concerted drive to push the benefits of apprenticeships. Hopefully, the growing publicity around these important routes to building skills required for today’s workplace will encourage more employers to offer apprenticeship opportunities and lead to an increasing number of young people considering them as a realistic option post-school.
For the past 30 or so years there has been a pre-occupation with sending young people to university in the belief that this was the preeminent way of giving them the best start in life and a head start in the competition for jobs. While statisticians differ over exactly how many people in the UK are studying at higher education establishments it is obvious that the number of students has snowballed since the 1970s. Education is a marvellous thing and, of course, in some subjects – medicine, law, architecture, teaching – university is an important staging post to gaining knowledge and expertise. But, it has become clear that sending more and more people to university and the proliferation of courses that have little value in the real world has become unsustainable, expensive and out of step with what employers want from their new recruits.
With most higher education institutions now charging up to £9,000 in tuition fees per year and the job prospects for many undergraduates looking pretty bleak, more young people are re-evaluating the appeal of apprenticeships. According to Essex County Council, since 2009 its apprenticeship programme has helped over 3,000 young people aged 16-24 into a variety of placements throughout the county. And its not just trainee plumbers and electricians that apprenticeships are aimed at. There’s an incredible range of options now available in sectors as diverse as IT, engineering and health. According to the National Apprenticeships Service, currently, more than 100,000 employers in England offer apprenticeships in 200,000 locations, covering over 170 industries and 1,500 different job roles. And there is evidence to show that apprentices in some industries go on to earn more than many graduates struggling to find an occupation where their skills are of real use.
Aside from the increased earning potential and no debt, apprentices go on to gain qualifications and, crucially, work experience, which enables employers to mould the type of employees they need and for young people to gain the practical understanding of life in the workplace that businesses find so appealing.
Here at Warley Design we can attest to the real benefits we gained from our apprenticeships. Both our directors profited from craft apprenticeships within manufacturing environments. This skills-based, shop-floor route gave them the solid grounding in the principles of manufacturing, which they are able to pass onto clients today. It is our belief that academic-based engineers do not always have that outlook and sometimes understate the essential commercial factors when approaching projects.
So, here’s to more employers embracing apprenticeships, more young people launching into programmes that offer them real prospect and the UK economy becoming more competitive on the world stage as a result.
Warley Design offers mechanical design, engineering and product development services to a broad range of industries. If you’ve got a project we can help you with please contact us.