Former Labour and Conservative ministers Lord Knight and Lord Willetts, with support from charity EngineeringUK, have launched a five-point plan for growing and sustaining engineering and technology apprenticeships for young people.
Recognising the critical importance of engineering and technology for the UK and the sector’s growing workforce needs, the new report is the culmination of a comprehensive inquiry that aims to find solutions to reverse the decline in apprenticeship starts that have been seen in the sector over recent years.
The report contains five key policy recommendations, based on insights gathered from businesses, education providers and young people. It calls on government, employers and providers to work together to rebalance and refocus apprenticeships to make them more accessible for young people:
- Rebalance education - ensure that the secondary school system is fit for the future and there is genuine parity of esteem between technical and academic pathways. Recommendations cover curriculum, BTECs, English Baccalaureate (EBacc) and careers.
- Support young people - provide better support for young people throughout their apprenticeship journey and take decisive action to break down barriers. Recommendations cover pre-apprenticeship support, benefits, transport and functional skills.
- Refocus funding - ensure long-term funding for apprenticeships at all levels and greater equity between vocational and academic routes. Recommendations include funding degree apprenticeships through the standard higher education fees and loans model and funding apprenticeships for 16 to 19-year-olds through an increase in the Education and Skills Funding Agency budget.
- Enable businesses - enable more SMEs to play an active role in apprenticeships. Work together with employers as well as providers to ensure that engineering and
technology apprenticeship standards are given the strategic importance they merit and meet the skills needs of the sector. Recommendations also cover residential options.
- Employers taking action - encourage employers to play their part in growing and sustaining apprenticeships for the future and to help widen opportunities for young people.
Lord Knight, Inquiry co-chair and former Labour Education and Employment Minister, said, “Despite 20 years of reviews and reform, Britain is lagging behind our competitors in developing the skilled workforce we need to engineer a prosperous future. This failure to better link schools and skills wastes the great potential of our young people. I hope this bold and practical set of recommendations will be listened to by policymakers and practitioners and finally fix this problem.”
Lord Willetts, Inquiry co-chair and former Conservative Minister for Universities and Science, commented: “Engineering is key for the British economy. Engineering apprentices and university graduates enjoy some of the higher earnings of any group. This report shows how we can encourage a wider range of young people into engineering and provide them with more opportunities for education and training. We hope our report will be drawn on by all the political parties."
The full inquiry report is available to download at: www.engineeringuk.com/fitforthefuture.