From education to employment

The North’s top apprenticeship provider urges engineering firms to close construction skills gap

Darren Hankey with a selection of apprentices from departments across Hartlepool College
Hartlepool College of Further Education has spoken out about the importance of working closely with local businesses to combat a growing shortage of skilled workers. 
In research conducted by Engineering UK, companies need to recruit 56,000 engineers a year until 2022 to meet demand and currently there is an annual shortfall of 28,000 apprentices entering into the industry. A recent study by Adecco reports that one in four employers in the UK who pay into the apprenticeship levy do not take on apprentices.
Darren Hankey, Principal of Hartlepool College of Further Education, which has recently been named the number one apprenticeship provider in the North of England by the Department of Education, said: “The fact that one in four firms do not consider apprenticeships is hardly surprising as some firms look at employees as a cost that needs to be controlled instead of looking at them as an asset that needs to be developed.
“A more alarming statistic is the fact that about four in five firms in the North East don’t take on apprentices and this is something, which needs urgent attention.
“One way we could stimulate the supply of apprentices is by working with companies to create a ‘skills pledge’ to encourage companies to nurture young employees. Too many companies are scared of investing time and money into someone for them to leave for new pastures.
“Apprenticeships are a superb way of ensuring firms can address workforce development needs. For many firms the cost of apprenticeships is extremely low with the Government paying 90% of fees – in some instances there are no fees to pay.  It all goes a very long way to help bridge the gap.”
Seymour Civil Engineering believes in the importance of the College’s apprenticeship scheme. Andrew Thompson, HR Manager at Seymour said: “I can only see positive results of apprenticeships for our industry and the wider community. It’s vital to work closely with local colleges and training boards to ensure that young people have a clear understanding about the many different career options in civil engineering and the fact that the apprenticeship route gives them hands-on training for their careers.”
One of the apprentices that Seymour has taken on and is currently nurturing is 17-year-old Lewis Hunt, a Management Trainee who is undertaking a level 3 BTEC in Construction in the Built Environment at the College
Lewis, said: “One of the main benefits of apprenticeships over traditional education is that it allows you to get your foot on the ladder. Also, I get paid to do this so I get wages right from the start rather than wracking up a load of debt.
“Picking an apprenticeship doesn’t stop me from following my education. In cases like mine the company I work for actually helps fund my education and encourages me to do my best by allowing me the time and the right environment to learn and grow.”

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