From education to employment

Employers of Britain Gather for Apprenticeship Awards 2006 Ceremony

Employers from sectors across the economy and across industry gathered to find out just who was the best employer of apprentices this year.

The Awards, set up and supported by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), celebrate the successes and the best practices demonstrated in the Apprenticeship sector. The employer awards are seen as a vital part of the mission to not only improve the image of FE in general, but also to communicate the true value that interacting with FE can have for a company in terms of development and growth.

The Awards and the State of Play

The Apprenticeship Awards recognise those employers who have demonstrated the ability to use Apprenticeships within their business plan and performance. Entries were received from all sectors and from a variety of sizes of businesses, with judges reportedly taken aback by the quality and quantity of entries this year. Applicants were assessed regarding the successful implementation of their Apprenticeship programme, evidence of the effects that this training has had on their performance, and on the support on offer to apprentices.

The Awards come at a time of growth and development within the Apprenticeship sector. The LSC’s National Employer Skills Survey (NESS) has issued some early findings that indicate that the nation’s skills gapped has begun to close. LSC research indicates that 71% of the people asked in the UK state that work based training delivers the needed skills for their careers, with a further 62% stating that a mixed work based and formal training was most useful to them.

This latter solution seems to be tailor made for Apprentices, which represent just such a mixture of work based and formal “off the job” training. The Apprenticeship programmes currently provide their brand of skills enhancement to 130,000 employers. However, as much progress as has been made, almost one in five of employers state that their staff are “not fully proficient”. This figure comprises approximately 1.3 million workers in England.

The Winners Are”¦

Amongst the winners, British Gas. This year, they took home the Large Employer of the Year Award at the Apprenticeship Awards. They currently employ a total of 650 apprentices and are demonstrably committed to providing the best training to the next generation of gas engineers. They have brought their Apprenticeship programme into the core strategy of their business, and have offered internal research that show apprentices to be 25% more effective and productive than alternatively trained staff.

The National Training Manager, Willie Nicoll, said: “We fully recognise the business benefits of growing our own engineers – they live the culture and our customer service principles are embedded from the very outset.” British Gas were joined on the podium by Derby based Slack & Parr, who have an Apprenticeship history that stretches back almost a century. Their Training Manager spoke of the effect that the programme has had: “Not only have we managed to reduce the effect of the engineering skill shortage, but the constant source of a progressive young workforce has enabled us to keep the company at the cutting edge of education and technology.”

The top of the pile for the category of Small Employer of the Year was Berkshire firm Benchmark, whose owner Sean Sutcliffe said that the Apprenticeship programme is the “cornerstone for staff development.” Beere Electrical Services beat the rest of the field in the Micro Employer of the Year category, bringing the award back to Surrey for their positive and supportive attitude to the Apprenticeship process.

Jethro Marsh

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