AMRC directors urged greater support and new national standards for engineering apprenticeships during a visit by the government’s Business, Innovation and Skills Committee.
The BIS committee held a formal session at the AMRC Factory of the Future on 6 March, as part of an inquiry into apprenticeships.
Committee chair Adrian Bailey MP said: “Apprenticeships can help equip young people throughout the UK with the skills necessary to drive forward broad and sustained economic growth, spread across a range of sectors and across the entire country. We need to look at what is working and where the current structure is falling short, not only for companies running apprenticeship schemes but for apprentices themselves.”
AMRC research director Keith Ridgway, projects director John Baragwanath, and advisor Richard Caborn told the committee how a national programme of apprenticeships could help the UK achieve its aim of increasing manufacturing’s share of GDP.
“There’s been a huge recognition in the past few years that the skills base is getting older,” said Ridgway. “There’s nobody coming through at the younger level.”
Caborn added: “We’ve got to define what an apprenticeship is – it’s got to be valued, properly policed, have a national programme of achievement, and funded in a way that’s a partnership between government and the private sector. That ownership of national standards is very important.”
The AMRC team underlined the need for national standards for engineering apprenticeships, of a kind provided by the Engineering Industry Training Board (EITB) until the early 1990s.
“We don’t believe in this country we have these national standards,” Caborn said. “If we are serious about moving the per capita GDP of manufacturing nearer to that of Germany, there has to be that kind of intervention to make that happen.”
The team also highlighted the new Advanced Manufacturing Institute Training Centre, which will take over 200 apprentices a year from autumn 2013.
Managers and apprentices from local manufacturers Sheffield Forgemasters International, Firth Rixson and AESSEAL also gave evidence to the committee.
Lewis Nicholson, who completed his apprenticeship at the AMRC and is now working as a qualified technician, talked about his experiences. “I’ve been here six years and have never stopped learning,” he said. “You can take it as far as you want to go, so long as the company’s behind you.”