Changing the message about a career in manufacturing
Posted on 7 March 2014
Apprenticeships, it would appear, have finally entered the mainstream.
At the annual conference of the EEF – the manufacturers’ trade body – held on Tuesday of this week the topic of apprentices was very much to the fore; hardly surprising, given this is Apprenticeship Week.
When he wasn’t taking himself off UK teachers’ Christmas card list at the EEF shin-dig business secretary Vince Cable was extolling the achievements of the coalition government in the sphere of creating apprenticeship schemes.
He was quick to recognise the need for skilled, well-trained youngsters and highlighted the need for such programmes to be employer, rather than training provider, led.
Then on BBC Breakfast this morning there was an item about the number of young people who were now seriously considering becoming an apprentice rather than going to university.
A TV reporter interviewed a young woman who appeared to be working for Siemens, the electrical engineering behemoth, in a factory in Cheshire.
Why, the reporter, asked the young woman, was she going down this route rather than going to uni?
Her answers were straight and to the point: she felt she would gain valuable work experience and life skills; she would get paid for her efforts, and have no debt hanging around her neck at the end of it.
The increasing number of schemes across the UK was proof, the TV reporter suggested, that there was more to apprenticeships than simply working on a construction site or hanging out with a plumber or an electrician.
Now there is nothing wrong with such routes to gain experience. But the point the reporter was making, perhaps ham-fistedly, was that high-tech firms were seeing the value of taking on young people in whom they could invest and hopefully nurture for the future of their own businesses.
Re-wind to the EEF conference...many of those delegates who asked questions of keynote speakers talked of the desire, indeed the pressing the need, to engage with young people in order to get them interested in a career in manufacturing, starting with a recognition in schools that it was a viable alternative to university.
That Cable’s point about teachers’ not knowing about the ‘world of work’ was so well received by the EEF audience lent weight to suggestions that the UK’s education system is missing a trick.
Many people, within and beyond our schools, think that domestic manufacturing still takes place in grime-covered Victorian hell-holes. That it doesn’t is becoming slowly – achingly slowly – apparent.
And if the ‘balanced economy’ we all want is to come to fruition we’ll need more youngsters and their teachers to take this on board.
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