Apprenticeships have been around since the middle ages, but recently – in the UK at least – have become a political hot topic, with the ‘Apprenticeship levy’ actually cutting the number of workers starting apprenticeships in England – the opposite of the intended effect.
Despite recent controversies, the apprenticeship sector is chock full of success stories in industry, both in the UK and abroad, and not least in the fastener sector.
And that’s not to mention the tools sector – Makita UK told Torque that it is already in talks with local colleges and hopes to have an apprenticeship scheme set up in the not so distant future.
In the meantime, read on for the views of some key fastener companies in the UK and Germany for their take on apprenticeships and also for the view from an apprentice and member of the IAC (Industry Apprentice Council).
Diana Scholefield, Managing Director
“Last year we took on three apprentices. We’ve got one in our customer service department, one in our maintenance department and one in our tooling business unit/equipment department. It gets young people into the business and it has worked really well for us.
“We are involved with the local college, which has an Industrial Centre of Excellence for Advanced Manufacturing & Engineering. I’m on the board with other local employers and we steer the College on what skills we want from new people. We run open days locally for young people and also for their parents to come and see what engineering is like, because there’s a very old fashioned view of engineering.
“We open up for a couple of hours, so youngsters can come down with their parents and we give them a tour around – other employers in the area do it as well. And then we hosted Women in Engineering Day in 2017 and in April this year. Again, that’s in line with the college and some of the other local businesses where they set up engineering workshops. Local schools bring girls in over the afternoon and then at tea time we open up the factory for them to come with the parents to have a look around.
“So, we’re very engaged in getting young people interested in engineering and I’m quite passionate about that, as are a lot of people here. We do what we can to get people involved.”
“The key [to changing the perception of engineering] is getting the parents’ view to change. And we need to get young people at a young age into the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects, choosing them at school to drive them in that way.
“One of our issues here is that Keighley isn’t the centre of the engineering world. When you get graduates they’ve come and done a great job but then moved on to other positions in Birmingham and the Midlands so we are trying a different route now.
“We do actively promote the recruitment of women. I started in engineering and I’ve had fantastic opportunities and I want people to see what opportunities are available. But it is very difficult, you’ve got to break down these barriers that there are.”
Helen Toole, HR Director
HOW LONG HAS YOUR BUSINESS OFFERED APPRENTICESHIPS?
For the last seven years, we’ve offered a number of various apprenticeship schemes at TR, one of which involves apprentices moving around our different departments to increase their knowledge and understanding of what a global company like TR does. From warehouse to quality, sales, admin, marketing and HR to credit control, purchasing and IT, apprentices are exposed to all aspects of our business and operations. This helps each individual to learn about TR and also to establish where their skills and interests lie in terms of furthering their career with us. We also provide apprenticeships in different functions; our Finance, Warehousing, Sales, HR and Marketing departments all run dedicated schemes within TR.
We are steadily increasing our apprenticeship offerings and we take on a growing number of apprentices every year. Typically an apprenticeship will be the first two years of an individual’s career within TR before they specialise in a function.
WHY DOES TR INVEST IN APPRENTICES? WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES?
We relish the opportunity of welcoming apprentices into the fold because not only does the experience help them, it helps us too! Having someone learn about the business on the job either by moving through departments and undertaking specialist training or within a specific function means that when their apprenticeship is complete, their knowledge and variety of experience is second to none. Having those people in our team is extremely beneficial as they grow to know the business and how we work.
WHAT’S THE FUTURE FOR TR AND APPRENTICESHIPS?
We will continue to take on apprentices across the TR network because we see the value in their contribution to the company and we are also dedicated to identifying and nurturing future talent. The schemes are a great way of supporting people to discover what path they want to take whilst also building up a solid knowledge of the company and the industry. Our business continues to grow globally and part of this success is due to our commitment to finding and developing organic talent. The apprenticeship schemes are just one of the ways that we do this and who knows, some of our apprentices may one day be the future leaders of the business!
HOW LONG HAS YOUR COMPANY BEEN OFFERING APPRENTICESHIPS?
The company has been offering apprenticeships already for 40 years. The diversity (from industrial mechanic to dual study programmes) has developed over the years.
WHY DOES YOUR COMPANY INVEST IN APPRENTICES? WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES?
Trainees are the executives of the future. Professionals in the labour market are scarce – this is how we can remedy these deficiencies a little bit. The advantage of own trained staff is that they also know the structures and ins and outs of the company and can constantly be introduced into the work processes. According to the operational requirements the trainees can be developed and promoted, which also creates a personal bond with the company.
HOW OFTEN DOES YOUR COMPANY TAKE ON APPRENTICES? AND APPROXIMATELY HOW MANY DO YOU RETAIN?
Each year, three to six apprentices are employed. Usually all apprentices are retained.
WHAT’S THE FUTURE FOR YOUR COMPANY AND APPRENTICESHIPS?
The foundations for a successful future have been laid. Due to the expansion of the manufacturing areas and the machinery additional capacities will be created. Training is continuously developing in order to face the future with confidence.
THE APPRENTICE’S VIEW
There’s nobody better able to sell the benefits of apprenticeships than apprentices themselves. That’s why I’m a member of the Industry Apprentice Council (IAC), facilitated by Semta, along with other apprentices from the manufacturing and engineering sector. Through our annual reports, which are based on detailed surveys of apprentices working in the industry, the IAC is the leading voice for engineering apprentices. Our latest report has even been quoted from in the house of Commons.
We IAC members do what we do because we love our apprenticeships – as indeed do apprentices from across engineering. 98% of 2017 IAC annual survey respondents said they were happy they had chosen to do an apprenticeship. You’re unlikely to find any other route into work with such high satisfaction rates. Is it any surprise, given that apprenticeships offer a unique blend of hands-on training, real workplace experience, avoidance of student debt and fair pay for a job well done?
Happy workers tend to make more productive workers. They go the extra mile for the people they work for. This is one reason that the return on investment for an engineering apprentice is so high. In as little as twelve months, an apprentice could have paid back the costs of their training through their output. And apprentices can go on to reach the very top of their companies, and even to start their own businesses, boosting economic growth. Overall, apprentices contribute £34bn a year to the UK economy (CEBR, 2014).
Even better, apprentices tend to make very loyal workers. If you’re happy where you are, why move? Retention rates for apprentices are higher than those for university graduates – and engineering apprentices are even more likely to stay with the employer that trained them than other apprentices. Bringing in an apprentice means that as they train, they also learn about your company, its culture and its practices. This means that apprentices take pride in where they work and what they do.
So if the return on investment, loyalty and commitment employers can expect from their apprentices is so high, what’s stopping every employer from taking them on? Recent changes to the funding system mean that the most an employer will ever have to contribute towards an apprentice’s total training cost is just 10%.
Speaking as an apprentice, my advice to employers would be, if you have skills needs, look at bringing in an apprentice to meet them. Talk to other employers about their experiences of apprenticeships, what to do and what not to do. Talk to current apprentices about their experiences so you
can make your programme as enjoyable as possible. Don’t be put off by any scare stories you might have heard about the difficulties of setting up a programme and finding the right apprentice. If you’re not sure where to start, organisations like Semta can offer support advice and guidance.
And finally – be proud of what you are doing, because every apprenticeship place offered is a new opportunity for someone like me to build a career with a company like yours.
For more information about the IAC go to semta.org.uk/iac For apprenticeships support and advice call Semta on 0845 643 9001 or email firstname.lastname@example.org