Industry apprentices are being given a unique opportunity to add their voice to the national debate on vocational learning.
The first Industry Apprentice Council (IAC) has been launched for apprentices to have their say on national policy and strategy, take action of Apprenticeship promotion and feedback directly to government ministers.
The apprentices, who are next meeting on Wednesday, February 6th, will gather regularly to discuss the latest reviews and reports, government proposals and other issues affecting the vocational pathway – particularly promotion of Apprenticeships to school pupils, a subject highlighted by the apprentices themselves.
The IAC’s conclusions, findings and ideas will be fed directly into the All Party Parliamentary Apprenticeships Group (APPAG), which is also meeting on February 6th, with Skills Minister Matthew Hancock.
The IAC has been convened in partnership between EAL, the specialist awarding organisation for industry qualifications, and IMI Awards, the leading awarding body for the retail motor industry. Both organisations previously brought together the APPAG, to ensure Apprenticeships are discussed regularly among Parliamentarians and other key influencers.
Ann Watson, Managing Director of EAL, said: “The Industry Apprentice Council is a unique and important body that will give industry apprentices a genuine voice in Parliament and among key decision makers. The members of the Council will also become ambassadors for Apprenticeships in their sectors, raising their profile and promoting the opportunities to young people at school.
“The IAC members are enthusiastic, highly skilled, determined and intelligent individuals – superb examples of the standard of industry apprentices. They are not afraid to have their say and get stuck in and this is exactly what we were looking for when we set up the IAC.
“I am looking forward to hearing their views and opinions going forward. I am sure they will have some interesting ideas – a unique perspective on Apprenticeships and how they feel the vocational pathway can be improved for current and future apprentices.”
The IAC is made up of 12 apprentices aged 18 to 24 years old, from companies including: Airbus, BAE Systems, Caunton Engineering, DAF Trucks, Ford Dealerships, Ford GB, KMF, MBDA, National Grid, Nestlé and Vauxhall.
At the next meeting, the IAC will be discussing the Richard Review of Apprenticeships, among other policy recommendations, before attending the APPAG in the afternoon, to hear from and speak to the Skills Minister.
The Green Deal will place greater demand on installers of energy efficient technologies and businesses should take advantage of the opportunity, says EAL, the specialist awarding organisation for industry qualifications.
Ann Watson, Managing Director of EAL, said: “With government’s Green Deal finally going live, following delays and uncertainties at the end of 2012, demand for installers of energy efficient technologies will rise over the coming months and years. Businesses should be ready to take advantage of the huge investment in sustainable technologies, with government putting in an initial £125million to fund the cash back scheme. It is hoped this will inspire much greater private investment, to cover the initial cost of installing solid wall and cavity insulation in homes, to name just two of the 45 different types of improvements currently available under the Green Deal.
“On top of this investment, £3.5million has been made available to fund training in key Green Deal skills. It is expected that 60,000 jobs will be supported in the insulation sector alone by 2015 – up from 26,000 in 2011. It is important that high quality, rigorous training and qualifications are available to workers and businesses if they are to take advantage of this opportunity. Homeowners must also be assured that Green Deal assessors and installers who are carrying out work on their houses are qualified to the highest standards if the scheme is to succeed.
“EAL recently launched a new qualification to help tradespeople spot the potential to install energy-saving measures. The award winning Level 2 Award in Understanding Sustainable Refurbishment (QCF) from EAL helps businesses to identify low carbon business opportunities through the Green Deal. Learners will be taken through the need for energy efficient buildings, the energy relationship between building materials, systems and occupancy and how to develop their roles onsite so they can improve the energy performance of a building.
“Nationally recognised qualifications show that tradespeople have the knowledge and skills to offer a trusted service that meets the standards demanded by industry. Getting qualified will put them ahead of the competition, as well as improve their level of service and support. It will also create new business opportunities and help employees looking to progress in their careers by becoming Green Deal advisors, Green Deal remote advisors or domestic energy assessors, among other roles.”
Government plans for a new Traineeship programme to provide young people with a stepping stone to an Apprenticeship have been welcomed by EAL, the specialist awarding organisation for industry qualifications.
The Traineeships, which could be in place by September 2013, will focus on work preparation and experience, as well as ensuring those aged 16 to 24 taking the programme have English and maths GCSE grade C or equivalent or better.
Ann Watson, Managing Director at EAL, has said anything that gives young people a better chance when it comes to entering further education or a job is a positive step forward and will help ensure apprentices have the work place skills demanded by employers.
She explained: “English and maths are absolutely critical to industry employers, who have repeatedly said young people also lack opportunities to develop their inter-personal skills, gain interview practice or real-life work experience. While Apprenticeships go a long way to ensuring young people develop these skills, there have previously been calls for pre-Apprenticeship programmes to ensure learners have a basic level of work-readiness before entering the workplace.
“In particular, a government backed Traineeship may provide those not in education, employment or training (Neets) with the skills required to get onto the employment ladder, either through an Apprenticeship or other job, and this can only be a good thing.
“As government and industry strives to ensure that all Apprenticeships are seen as equivalent to higher education and meet the highest levels of rigour and assessment, it is increasingly important that prospective apprentices meet a minimum standard. Industry Apprenticeships are already providing young people with a stepping stone into highly skilled careers in engineering, manufacturing, building services and a variety of other sectors, and places are highly sought after. If prospective apprentices initially go through a pre-Apprenticeship style Traineeship, this will only help to push standards up further, providing businesses with the highly skilled, experienced and qualified workforce that will help them to thrive, giving the economy a much needed boost.”
Apprenticeships have proven popular in 2012 as learners were put off higher education by the new tuition fee arrangements, EAL has said.
Ann Watson, managing director of EAL, the specialist awarding organisation for industry qualifications, has commented on recent figures from the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), revealing huge demand for the vocational pathway.
There were 1.13m applications through the NAS online database last year, for around 106,000 vacancies (around 80% of the total). Meanwhile, UCAS announced in their End of Cycle report 2012 that overall demand for higher education has fallen, with applications dropping by 6.6 per cent to 653,600.
Ann said: “Demand for higher education weakened last year, when higher tuition fees were rolled out, while Apprenticeships went from strength to strength. While work still needs to be done, the public perception of Apprenticeships is slowly shifting, aligning the vocational pathway with higher education as a valuable pathway into a fulfilling, highly skilled career. Manufacturing Apprenticeships, in particular, proved extremely popular, with over 40,000 applications for 3,500 places advertised on the NAS database. This is the message EAL will be giving industry employers.
“The NAS figures reveal a huge gap in supply and demand – with applications far outweighing vacancies. More needs to be done to promote Apprenticeships to employers, support them to take on apprentices, and make them aware of the support that is already available, such as grants for SMEs that have never taken on an apprentice or have not recruited one in the previous 12 months.
“As an awarding organisation, EAL works with our sector employers to ensure Apprenticeships meet skills needs and are worthwhile for both learners and the businesses themselves. Apprenticeships are a highly effective recruitment tool, ensuring new employees have the exact skills and knowledge required for the job. We are working to promote the vocational pathway’s benefits to employers, learners, schools and parents. Working alongside these same groups, we must also ensure more Apprenticeship opportunities are available as their popularity increases.”