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Manufacturing and engineering apprenticeships: gold standard training


Verity Davidge

Head of Education and Skills Policy, EEF

There aren’t many manufacturers that don’t see the value in apprenticeships. Over two-thirds of companies we surveyed currently offer apprenticeships, with a further 14% considering doing so. Only 5% have never offered them.

Why do they offer apprenticeships? Quite simply, to secure the skills they need now and in the future. But they’re also a hugely credible route to recruiting the next generation. That’s why over half of manufacturers say they offer apprenticeships to get the next generation into the industry.

Moreover, plans to recruit apprentices are on the rise. Two-thirds of manufacturers plan to recruit an engineering apprentice in the next 12 months. This trend for planned recruitment has been consistent over the past couple of years.

Interestingly, 38% of manufacturers plan to recruit an apprentice outside of engineering. Speaking directly to employers, they are keen to place apprentices in other functions within their business. These can include IT, not only to ensure they have the technical skills and experience to succeed in the job, but also to bring in more young, fresh talent into the business.

Prior to the Apprenticeship Levy, the number of manufacturing and engineering apprenticeships has seen steady growth over the past 10 years in comparison to all apprenticeships which have seen far more peaks and troughs in recent years. In fact, manufacturing and engineering apprenticeships tend to account for around 15% of all apprenticeships each year. This is higher than the proportion of the workforce that works in manufacturing. Apprenticeships are in some way, punching above their weight.

Quality of apprenticeships, not just quantity of apprentices…

But it’s not all a numbers game and we shouldn’t let it be. Quality is the focus for the manufacturing and engineering industry when it comes to training the next generation.

Whilst quality is difficult to define – arguably it could be defined by outcomes – likely to be influenced by the length of the apprenticeship, level of training and career prospects (long-term employment, opportunities for career progression, salary levels) which result from the successful completion of the apprenticeship.

In all these measures manufacturing and engineering apprenticeships trump nearly all others. The average pay for an engineering apprentice is around £6.50 per hour, and our own pay benchmarking data shows a Craft Apprentice in their fourth year earns on average over £18,000. Three-quarters of manufacturers say all their apprentices stay with them on completion of their training and this is training that lasts on average four years and includes significant investment in both time and money from employers.

Apprenticeships are very much in the spotlight at the moment. There has been constant campaign by industry, Government and wider stakeholders to shout from the rooftops about the benefits of apprenticeships and it seems the message is getting out there.

There are challenges currently, the biggest one being the Apprenticeship Levy. The alarming drop in numbers has been a great cause for concern amongst manufacturers who support the Government’s ambition to get more employers investing in apprenticeships, but don’t see the Levy – in its current form – achieving this aim. That’s why EEF has been pretty vocal about getting the Levy back on track. We want to see more of these gold standard apprenticeships started in our industry, giving more young people the opportunity to train is the next generation of innovators, creators and makers.

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