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The challenge for apprenticeships in the motor industry - 20.10.2016

25-1427282458-engine-builder.jpgWith the UK continuing to face a chronic shortage of engineers and technicians, leading engine and gearbox remanufacturer, Ivor Searle, looks at the changing landscape for automotive apprenticeships, the traditional entry point for new recruits into the sector.

How would you define an apprenticeship? The word itself is very old, dating back to as early as 1300AD, having evolved from the Latin ‘Apprenditcius’, meaning to be indentured to a master craftsman in order to learn a skilled trade.

Centuries on, the ‘modus operandi’ of the apprenticeship hasn’t changed but over the last few years, concern has been voiced by many quarters of industry, including the automotive sector, that apprenticeships are a shadow of what they once were.

The Apprenticeship scheme in England and Wales is currently in a period of significant change, relating to both structure and financing. Training providers are currently responsible for managing 80% of all Apprenticeships in the UK with large employers and further education colleges making up the other 20% but the status quo will make way for new rules and regulations coming into force next year.

Alongside the Government proposals, the Daily Telegraph produced a research report, “Sense & Instability”, which explored the changes to the UK’s skills and employment system over the past 30 years. This discovered a ‘catastrophic failure’ to learn lessons from previous governments. It highlighted that policymakers and politicians, including the 61 secretaries of state responsible for skills and employment policy over that period, pressed ahead with reform without consulting the history books or thinking through the implications of policy on the long-term health of the economy.

Youth unemployment remains stubbornly high, so in Ivor Searle’s view, there needs to be a focus on succession planning and making the industry as attractive as possible to entrants. One of the UK’s best-known engine remanufacturers, Ivor Searle, which now provides remanufactured gearboxes and remanufactured turbos, has been an advocate for apprenticeships since the business was established. A number of the current engineering team started as apprentices and the business aims to take on at least one apprentice per year.

Commenting on the challenge Ivor Searle has in attracting the right calibre of automotive apprentice, David Eszenyi, the company’s Commercial Director, says that enthusiasm for apprenticeships seems to have diminished amongst those aged under 19, as schools encourage students to aim for higher education:

“In our experience, young people don’t attach prestige to forging a long-term career in the automotive industry, despite the fact that they would be earning a respectable wage from day one, whilst learning at the same time. Many still view it as a sector with limited prospects, not realising the potential for those who are skilled. I started my career as an apprentice with Rolls Royce, which gave me an excellent foundation and we employ a number of senior staff whom Ivor Searle trained as apprentices.”

From April 2017, a new Apprenticeship Levy will be paid at a rate of 0.5% by employers with a payroll of more than £3million per year, estimated at between 19-20,000 businesses. The Government expects to raise over £3 billion a year by 2019-20, £2.5 billion of which will be ring-fenced to be spent on English apprenticeships only. The funds collected will be accessible to employers who want to purchase apprenticeship training, regardless of whether they paid the levy or not.

Starting from May 2017, the Government plans to launch a new system of fifteen funding bands to which all apprenticeship framework standards will be assigned. Employers will then be responsible for negotiating with training providers a price for training and assessment within a funding band.

This has potentially serious consequences for the automotive industry as many of the existing programmes used to fill around 13,000 apprentice vacancies every year are subject to cuts of up to 50% in Government funding. This has sparked fears that there will be a trainee drought from next year, worsening an already critical skills shortage. The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) is actively lobbying the Government to review the current plans so that employers are not disadvantaged.

For further information about Apprenticeships, visit https://www.getingofar.gov.uk/apprenticeships

Filed under: auto apprenticeships, Ivor Searle apprenticeship