Cable visits AMRC to call for elite apprenticeships

24 June 2014

Business secretary Vince Cable has called for a new model of high level, high status technical education which combines academic and applied knowledge, during a visit to the University of Sheffield AMRC.

Speaking at a National Summit on Apprentices at the AMRC Knowledge Transfer Centre, Cable described the need for a range of elite apprenticeships, with progression up to degree level and beyond, supported by a new generation of National Colleges focusing on higher level technical training.

"We need to end the stereotype that apprenticeships are for those who do not get to university. Increasingly apprenticeships are not just a valid alternative to going to university, but can actually include degrees," Cable said.

"Degree level apprenticeships give businesses the opportunity to develop training and education programmes specifically designed to equip learners with the skills their business needs - combining theoretical education and technical training.

"National Colleges will provide high level technical skills to those industries or sectors with identified skills gaps, bringing further and higher education together with business and innovation. The University of Sheffield's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre is a prime example of the type of provision we intend to encourage through National Colleges."

The National Summit on Apprentices brought together partners from industry, universities and skills policy, as well as representatives of the 150 advanced apprentices currently working with the AMRC Training Centre.

The event was held in association with the Department of Business Innovation and Skills and Sheffield's Global Manufacturing Festival, and also included speakers from industrial partners such as Rolls-Royce.

University of Sheffield Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Keith Burnett commented: "We are delighted to host this important national summit on the future of technical education and apprenticeships in the UK. The University of Sheffield is a leading UK university undertaking world-class research and working with companies like Rolls-Royce and Boeing, committed to the needs of companies and young people.

"By focusing on a new approach to higher vocational education apprenticeships and education, we are opening up new forms of higher education inseparable from our world-leading research partnerships with industry - but we are also helping to create sustainable jobs, growth and access to a university education which does not involve debt for those students.

"Through our work at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, I believe we are redefining how UK universities with a world-class reputation for research and teaching can engage with very highest-quality technical education. We believe this is essential not only for young people looking for a high-quality technical education, it is crucial to the future of manufacturing in the UK."

The UK economy requires 830,000 new engineers over the next eight years purely to replace workers reaching retirement. In the civil nuclear energy industry, more than two-thirds of skilled workers will retire in the next decade and yet 31 per cent of high-tech manufacturing firms import labour from overseas due to the skills shortage.

AMRC Training Centre apprentices are employed by manufacturing companies keen to benefit from the high-quality training in the practical and academic skills that manufacturing companies need to compete globally. Sponsoring companies range from global leaders such as Rolls-Royce and Tata Steel to local high-tech supply-chain companies.

The University has agreed progression routes for its AMRC Advanced Apprentices through undergraduate study in Engineering up to doctorate and MBA level. An apprentice who progresses through undergraduate degree levels will graduate at age 22 with a degree, seven years industrial experience and no debt.

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