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Skills initiatives:

25 January 2013

Over the last three decades manufacturing in Britain has undergone a dramatic shift in skill profile.Traditionally, apprentices were the most important route into manufacturing and their decline has been a key cause of the

Over the last three decades manufacturing in Britain has undergone a dramatic shift in skill profile.Traditionally, apprentices were the most important route into manufacturing and their decline has been a key cause of the skills shortage we currently face.The MTA is proactively helping to counter this through its Growing Talent initiative, but says greater support is needed

Apprenticeships provide the lifeblood of engineering-based manufacturing.More than 130,000 companies in the UK offer apprenticeships because they understand the benefits such employees bring to their business - increased productivity, improved competitiveness and a committed and competent work force.

Growing Talent In recognition of the skills shortages within the manufacturing sector - which are particularly prevalent in SMEs - the Manufacturing Technologies Association has created the MTA Apprenticeship Scheme - Growing Talent. This initiative offers funding, guidance and support to members wishing to create their own programmes and develop talent in-house. It's funded by a charity created out of the MTA's endowment.

MTA members turning over less than £5million can apply for a £2000 grant and/or a £10,000 interest-free loan towards the cost of taking on a new apprentice.

Apprenticeships funded in this way are those offered through accredited training providers and in accordance with national frameworks.

As a member-based association, the MTA's scheme is constrained by the amount of funds it can make available internally.

However, the Association believes that with a little government funding the number of apprenticeships could be significantly increased.

Paul O'Donnell, head of external affairs, explains: "With a modest level of support from the government we believe this 'lean' scheme could be extended into the manufacturing SME base, providing a highly cost-effective way of reaching a large number of 'hard to reach' firms. Growing Talent provides a model for encouraging SMEs to move into the provision of apprenticeships." The MTA believes the scheme works well for smaller companies because it is easy to obtain and administer. The MTA is close to its members and as such, is able to respond collaboratively with the industry when issues in the administration of the scheme arise.

O'Donnell continues: "We believe that such proximity - within a framework of oversight - enables the scheme to run cheaply and efficiently. The MTA is able to keep overheads to a minimum because we understand the sector and can advise member companies on how best to make use of the money available."

High status apprenticeships The problems that we face in ensuring a good flow of apprentices into industry are not limited to the issue of cost. Apprenticeship programmes that do exist can experience difficulties attracting appropriate candidates.

The image problem that engineering has in the UK is well documented and apprenticeships suffer similarly.

Past governments have damaged perceptions of the apprenticeship path by conflating initiatives to improve their take up with those aimed at reducing the number of NEETs (those not in education, employment or training) in the economy.

There needs to be much greater care taken over the language used about, and attitude taken to, apprenticeships by all in education.

Apprenticeships - certainly those in technology-based industries - should not be a last resort but a career path for the able.

O'Donnell concludes: "We need to break down the impression that exists that apprenticeships are for those who can't.We want the brightest and best to pursue careers in manufacturing. Apprenticeships need to be given higher status.

"We need to work together to support our sector and develop safeguards against future skills shortages. Ensuring greater uptake of dynamic apprenticeship schemes is a truly viable way of doing this."
 
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