Reap the rewards of apprenticeships

Employers in media and design, hospitality, health and social care, professional services, and retail and wholesale sectors are being targeted as part of the learning and Skills Council’s campaign to boost the response from business.

The first phase of the apprenticeships campaign – A Great Idea – received an impressive 11,000 employer responses over four months. But the campaign also highlighted a lack of employer awareness of the wide variety of apprenticeships available – particularly in less “traditional” fields.

Only 6 per cent of responses were from hospitality employers – compared with engineering and manufacturing which both accounted for 34 per cent of responses in total. Similarly, only 4 per cent of responses were from employers looking for professional services apprentices.

This compares with much higher responses from employers for engineering (17 per cent) and manufacturing apprenticeships (26 per cent).

The LSC intends to build the success of apprenticeships across a wide range of industries and is targeting sectors and regions where there is a steady interest from 16- to 24-year-olds seeking career opportunities through an apprenticeship.

Stephen Gardner, director of work-based learning at the LSC, said: “We are focusing on the sectors that are not only Britain’s most important industries, but those where workforce skills make an enormous difference to business performance.

“There is a real desire from young people for diverse careers in these sectors where response from employers has been lower.”

There are currently more than 250,000 young people undertaking an apprenticeship in the UK, but Gardner believes there could be many more: “The employers we are featuring in the second phase of the campaign will demonstrate how apprenticeships make a real difference to their bottom-line results through staff retention, job competence and higher levels of morale.”

Case study – British Gas

The domestic energy supply market is taking steps to combat the national shortage of qualified servicing and installation engineers.

British Gas has invested in an engineering academy – its own centre of excellence – delivering training to 16- to 24-year-olds through modern apprenticeships.

Rod Kenyon, director of the academy, said: “Industry must play its part, and rather than simply complain about skills shortages it must make a real investment now to boost the skills and productivity of employees.”

British Gas currently has about 500 young people on modern apprenticeships. Trainees are exposed to the full range of domestic gas appliances and systems within training centres and then take part in periods of work experience, working alongside qualified engineers doing real jobs in real customer premises.

If successful they will each complete their 12-14 month course and be awarded an N/SVQ in Gas Installation & Maintenance at Level III.

James Hoo has just completed his modern apprenticeship, having worked previously as a psychiatric nurse. He said: “Prior to joining the course I had absolutely no knowledge of gas engineering whatsoever.

“I am flabbergasted at how much I have learnt in such a short time. Doing a modern apprenticeship gave me the chance to be constantly learning as I worked, and provided me with state-of-the-art training, equipment and tools”

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