Professor John Perkins
Chair of the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s Education and Skills Panel
In a matter of weeks, the new apprenticeship levy will bring a fresh onus for employers to ensure they are doing their bit to create new opportunities for apprentices across the UK workforce.
The levy may have its flaws, but in the sectors represented by the IET’s members, it has the potential to help fill the shortfall of fresh engineering talent we need for the future.
Most obviously, the direct increase in support available for apprentices, which will come about through the levy, will go some way to ensuring the right number of people are training as engineers – an issue which we urgently need to address for the future health of our sector.
Increasing the opportunity for more people to follow a work-based route into engineering will also help employers build the specific skills, experience and knowledge relevant to their business and their sector. This should go some way to resolving the skills shortages which exist across most engineering sectors – and help to address the lack of ‘work readiness’ among school leavers reported by employers in the IET’s most recent Annual Skills Survey.
Lastly, the more we are able to point out the positive impact that engineering apprenticeships can have on individuals who want an interesting and challenging career and employers, the easier it will be to attract future apprentices and to show this route into industry is just as valid as any other. The IET is committed to encouraging more young people into apprenticeships.
Employers who don’t currently offer an apprenticeship should use the the levy as an opportunity.
Our Engineering Horizons Bursary scheme is designed to support talented individuals facing personal obstacles or financial hardship to complete their training as an apprentice with a package of financial support and membership of the IET.
Separately, our Apprentice of Year Award identifies individuals who have made an impact on their organisation and on the engineering profession. By celebrating the hard work of individual apprentices and acknowledging organisations who have supported them, we spread the word about the benefits of apprenticeships each year.
We believe that employers who don’t currently offer an apprenticeship should use the introduction of the levy as an opportunity to create a new route to bring in the talent they need to support their business in the future.
In the future, we would also like to see the levy being extended to accommodate employers offering much needed work experience opportunities for engineering students to help them make them make the transition from academia to work. In our most recent Annual Skills Survey, 62% of employers reported that graduates do not have the right skills for today’s workplace.
So for the 53% of employers who told us that they didn’t know what the levy will bring to them, the time to find out and act is now.
Professor John Perkins is Chair of the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s Education and Skills Panel. You can find out more about the IET’s support for apprentices at www.theiet.org/apprentices