From education to employment

Innovative cross-party 5-point plan launched to grow engineering and technology apprenticeships for young people

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Former Labour and Conservative ministers Lord Knight and Lord Willetts, with support from charity EngineeringUK, are today launching an ambitious new 5-point plan for growing and sustaining engineering and technology apprenticeships for young people

Recognising the critical importance of engineering and technology for the UK and the sector’s growing workforce needs, the new report is the culmination of a comprehensive inquiry – seeking to find solutions to reverse the worrying decline in apprenticeship starts seen in the sector over recent years. 

Based on insights gathered from businesses, education providers and young people, the report contains 5 key policy recommendations for all political parties to consider. It calls on government, along with employers and providers, to work together as a matter of urgency, to rebalance and refocus apprenticeships to make them accessible for young people. 

Lord Knight, Inquiry co-chair and former Labour Education and Employment Minister, comments:

“Despite 20 years of reviews and reform, Britain is lagging behind our competitors in developing the skilled workforce we need to engineer a prosperous future.  This failure to better link schools and skills wastes the great potential of our young people. I hope this bold and practical set of recommendations will be listened to by policymakers and practitioners and finally fix this problem.”

Lord Willetts, Inquiry co-chair and former Conservative Minister for Universities and Science, comments:

“Engineering is key for the British economy. Engineering apprentices and university graduates enjoy some of the higher earnings of any group. This report shows how we can encourage a wider range of young people into engineering and provide them with more opportunities for education and training. We hope our report will be drawn on by all the political parties.”

The inquiry makes recommendations across 5 key areas: 

  1. Rebalance education
    Ensure that the secondary school system is fit for the future and there is genuine parity of esteem between technical and academic pathways. Recommendations cover curriculum, BTECs, English Baccalaureate (EBacc) and careers. 
  2. Support young people
    Provide better support for young people throughout their apprenticeship journey and take decisive action to break down barriers. Recommendations cover pre-apprenticeship support, benefits, transport and functional skills.       
  3. Refocus funding
    Ensure long-term funding and greater equity between vocational and academic routes. Recommendations include funding degree apprenticeships through the standard higher education fees and loans model and funding apprenticeships for 16 to 19 year olds through an increase in the Education and Skills Funding Agency budget.
  4. Enable businesses
    Enable more SMEs to play an active role in apprenticeships. Work together with employers as well as providers to ensure that engineering and technology apprenticeship standards are given the strategic importance they merit and meet the skills needs of the sector. Recommendations also cover residential options. 
  5. Employers taking action
    Encourage employers to play their part in growing and sustaining apprenticeships for the future and to help widen opportunities for young people. 

Hilary Leevers, Chief Executive of EngineeringUK, comments:

“For engineering and technology to thrive, we urgently need more people and more diversity in our workforce. Apprenticeships offer a fantastic route for young people into rewarding and purposeful engineering and tech jobs, so it’s vital that they are fit for purpose. The recommendations in this report present practical actions for government, employers and sector organisations to improve the esteem, accessibility, structure, and funding and, ultimately, uptake of apprenticeships.”  

The full inquiry report – ‘Fit for the future: A 5-point plan to grow and sustain engineering and technology apprenticeships for young people’ is available to download here.

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