19 March, 2018

Apprenticeships – a modern classic

10 June, 2016

By Colin Mander, regional director, Gardner Denver.

Engineering and apprenticeships… Like fish and chips, bread and butter or bacon and eggs, it’s a classic combination - with a rich history that can be charted back to the heyday of British manufacturing and beyond.

Here’s why I believe the industry should be seizing the opportunity now to recruit the next generation of talented youngsters and fly the flag for engineering apprenticeships. In doing so, we might just find we improve the prospects for our own respective businesses too.

Falling at the first hurdle?

If we could transport ourselves back to the 1960s we would see around a third of male school leavers aged between 15 and 17 entering some form of apprenticeship programme. Compare this with any of the recent negative news reports, such as the study commissioned by the Local Government Association, which claims that apprenticeships are failing young people (with 42 per cent of all apprenticeships created in the last five years going to people aged over 25) and it makes for stark reading.

At the same time, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) is calling for a radical rethink of the apprenticeship levy, due to be introduced in April 2017. Designed to increase numbers and skill levels, the CBI claims it risks having the opposite effect, actually adding to payroll costs, especially for large employers.

Headline-grabbing statistics about the Government’s failure to deliver for young people will make our industrial leaders rightly question the value of apprenticeship schemes. But, I believe they can still present an ideal opportunity; not only for the manufacturing world to benefit from a wealth of untapped talent, but to nurture and grow that talent for everyone’s future benefit.

Indeed, with more than two million new engineers required by the end of the decade, time is not on our side, and while it makes for grim reading that more than 740,000 16 to 24 year olds are currently unemployed, it does mean there is a huge pool of potential engineers just waiting to be given the opportunity to learn.

Good for business

With so many conflicting reports about the success, or otherwise of apprenticeship schemes, many businesses are hesitant to take on new, unskilled employees, believing it will be too costly or time consuming.

At Gardner Denver, we have found the opposite to be true. Recruiting directly into our own business or by working with our distributor partners and offering financial support for training costs, we have been increasing the numbers of school, college and university leavers in to a career in the compressed air industry. And, by putting in place a formal regime of training and skills development, we have benefitted greatly.

It is proven that customers favour companies that employ apprentices and they are shown to make the workplace more productive too. Best of all, we continue to be surprised and indeed, challenged by the wealth of new ideas, the enthusiasm and the passion that they bring.

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