In the second part of UK Construction Online’s exclusive interview, we talk with Sheila Hoile, on the positives of an apprenticeship and the new apprenticeship levy.
We discuss the standards that an apprentice needs to meet, how to get involved, the impact apprenticeships have on the current skills shortage and companies plus the new apprenticeship levy.
Can you talk a little bit about the standards that an apprentice must meet to get involved?
The apprenticeships run by the companies in the Technician Apprenticeship Consortium are technician apprenticeships mapped to the Engineering Council UKSPEC EngTech requirements and membership of the relevant Professional Engineering Institution. As such the requirements for entry are a minimum of 5 GSCEs Grades A*-C including English, Maths and a Science subject. In many cases a minimum of a Grade B in Maths is preferred in order to meet the challenges of the course. It is worth commenting that these are minimum grades and we have a significant number of successful applicants with A-levels who have made the decision to take the apprentice route. You can get some idea of the calibre of the apprentices by taking a look at the video on the TAC website (www.tacnet.org.uk) which was launched in National Apprenticeship Week this year.
How can someone get involved in becoming part of trailblazer?
Employers may wish to get involved at various stages of a Trailblazer from establishing a group to submit an Expression of Interest in developing an Apprenticeship Standard through to recruiting apprentices onto a Trailblazer programme once it has been approved. A list of apprenticeships approved for delivery can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/apprenticeship-standards-ready-for-delivery
Young people considering their career options can search for apprenticeship vacancies onhttps://www.gov.uk/topic/further-education-skills/apprenticeships . There is also information and advice on the Technician Apprenticeship Consortium website along with profiles of some existing apprentices. Employers have found schools reluctant to provide students with information on technician apprenticeships. This is partly due to a wish for the students to remain in the school or go onto university and partly due to a lack of understanding of technician apprenticeships and the opportunities they offer to start a career as a professional engineer. This puts young people without access to someone who knows about engineering at a distinct disadvantage and means that the industry is not able to access talent from across the student population. In 2014, the Technician Apprenticeship Consortium published a report “Accessing Untapped Talent” based on work it had done in London, funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering, which provides recommendations as to ways to reach out to less traditional groups in terms of gender, ethnic minorities and the socially disadvantaged.
What positive impact do you think it could have on the construction industry in addressing the skills shortage?
Firstly, employers are reassured that the apprenticeships have been developed by their colleagues to meet the current and future skill needs of the sector.
Secondly, the end point assessment means that those completing the apprenticeship will have been subject to rigorous quality assured and consistent assessments designed to make sure that they are competent to carry out the designated role.
Thirdly it is important to acknowledge the fact that skills shortages exist across the workforce – in engineering consultancy practices as much as amongst contractors. To deliver, amongst other projects, ambitious infrastructure programmes the companies need people with the right high level skills in an industry where we are seeing rapid changes in technology and working practices. As can be seen from the success of the Technician Apprenticeship Consortium employers are finding that “growing your own” has distinct advantages. From a starting point of six companies and eight apprentices in one college in London in 2010, the recruitment in September 2016 is looking like 500 apprentices meaning that over 1500 young people across England will either be in training or have completed their apprenticeship and gone onto further and higher education courses. We have noticed that, now the companies have apprentices, other managers see their presence and think that they would like to have one working for them, recognising their enthusiasm and how well they work.
How could an employer benefit more from this initiative?
In two ways, as I have already described. If there is a case for a new Apprenticeship Standard then the opportunity is there to develop one. Through the Technician Apprenticeship Consortium we already have Apprenticeship Standards for Railway Engineering Design Technicians and Transport Planning Technicians. We are close to completing Standards for Civil Engineering Technicians and Building Services Design Technicians which will complement programmes we have developed already. We are about to submit an Expression of Interest for an Acoustics Technician. We are planning Level 6 degree apprenticeships in Civil Engineering and Building Services Design to provide properly structured progression routes for those that have completed their technician apprenticeship.
Where apprenticeships have already been approved for delivery then employers can look to recruit apprentices and get involved in the programmes knowing that the apprenticeships have been designed by employers to rigorous quality standards to ensure consistency, validity and value for money.
What effect do you think the new levy could have on apprenticeships? Do you have any concerns?
I think that it is too early to tell. A certain amount of detail has been released but there is still a lot of uncertainty as to the cost bands the government will impose and the support that will be given to small employers that fall below the levy threshold. A further concern is around the amount of bureaucracy that managing the levy and digital voucher process will bring on the companies. I remain cautiously optimistic that companies who, up until now, have not taken on apprentices will give serious consideration to doing so. The Technician Apprenticeship Consortium can offer support to these companies by providing expertise, advice and guidance.