6 June 2017 | Andy Owen
The most pressing problem for the UK's industrial sector in recent years has been the skills shortage, an issue that will again be at the centre of the public's consciousness in light of the UK Government's introduction of an apprenticeship levy in April.
While stability has been returning after the financial crash, the sector has continued to see the volume of skilled engineers entering the industry falling short of growing demand.
But according to the 2017 state of engineering report by Engineering UK, support from the education system has led to a renewed interest in engineering among young people. Now, the government has put an apprenticeship levy in place to persuade larger engineering firms to employ more apprentices.
Herein lies the key problem with many of the current apprenticeship schemes. By introducing a levy to coerce businesses into offering apprenticeships, the government is taking the wrong steps to achieve the right goal. Businesses must make apprentices integral to their strategies rather than a financially motivated afterthought.
Organisations should take on apprentices each year across all departments from design engineering to finance, ensuring they are equipped with practical skills rather than just shadowing an engineer. This makes it mutually beneficial, particularly for engineering apprentices, as the company gets extra work capacity and they gain valuable skills.
But an Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) survey last year found that half of engineering firms believe typical recruits do not meet their expectations.
IET president Naomi Climer said: "It is more important than ever that we develop the next generation of home-grown engineering and technology talent."
This cannot be accomplished unless businesses rethink apprenticeships to benefit both parties.
Andy Owen is managing director of electric tug specialist MasterMover