Why Apprenticeships are vital for a thriving manufacturing sector

This week is National Apprentice Week, with the focus for 2021 being ‘build the future’ and how employers train, retain and achieve with apprenticeships.

Considering the global pandemic has seen a reduction in apprenticeship positions, the manufacturing industry continues to offer opportunities at all levels (including degree), with 76% of manufacturers currently offering apprenticeships to secure the skills they need (Make UK).

Apprenticeships are integral to the manufacturing industry. I know first-hand the value they bring to organisations, whether someone joins fresh out of school or retrains later in the life.

I have worked in engineering and manufacturing my whole career, starting out as apprentice engineer and now MD of my own business providing engineering services to the food industry. I am passionate about encouraging young people to consider manufacturing as a viable, rewarding career.

With developments around Brexit, and the Covid-19 pandemic showcasing vulnerabilities around workforce supply in the UK, now more than ever it should be a key focus for the manufacturing industry and the Government to encourage a more engaged, diverse workforce, including women, re-trainers, school leavers and those from minority backgrounds.

Apprenticeships National Apprenticeship Week, alongside the Manufacturing Weeks that take place sporadically throughout the year, are excellent opportunities for the industry to highlight the array of opportunities available and how our industry is fueling the next generation of innovators.

Just looking on social media, it’s a real joy to see food manufactures like Fox’s Biscuits, Cranswick Plc and Pilgrim’s Pride Ltd highlighting their current apprenticeships, the successes, potential and range of schemes available.

With increasing costs associated with traditional university education, coupled with increasing costs of living, apprenticeships provide an attractive offer that enables people to learn and earn at the same time.

Therefore, when it comes to the point when a young person is making decisions about their future career and they are considering all the potential industries in front of them, it’s vital that manufacturing and engineering stands out as an attractive option.

Unfortunately, stereotypes surrounding food manufacturing are still very much embedded and need continually addressing to show the variety of opportunity, and the inclusivity of the industry.

Myth busting Apprenticeships in Manufacturing and Engineering

  1. Factory floor roles: Not all manufacturing apprentice jobs involve people working on factory lines – 42% of manufacturing apprenticeships were studying ‘Science and Mathematics’ in a latest Government report, and 27% of apprenticeship studying ‘Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies’.
  2. Unrepresentative workforce: The industry is attracting a growing number of females with an increase in the number undertaking STEM subjects, more inclusive and flexible working arrangements and employee engagement schemes.
  3. Poor pay: The average pay for engineering apprentices is almost double the minimum rate (BEIS Apprentice Pay Survey).

Moving Forward

Make UK Alice Tranter, Labour Market & Skills Policy Advisor said:

“While it is clear that manufacturers are investing heavily in apprenticeships and are increasing the number of young people joining the sector, there is still more that can be done to engage schools. Joint collaboration with Government is vital when shaping different educational pathways and without a clear strategy and much-needed reform, students will continue to believe that Higher Education remains the default route to a successful career.”

Alice makes really valid points, and watching the latest promo video released by Make UK in support of National Apprenticeship Week does capture a real sense of hope, inspiration and potential for the sector.

It is only by the industry working together with external parties like the government, education, private enterprise, and individuals, to raise its own positive profile and the role it plays creating a world leading sector, that we’ll start to see a sustained momentum of change.

With so much potential across the sector, 2.7 million high value jobs and contributing £192 billion to the UK economy, the industry is booming! Who wouldn’t want to work in it?!

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