In order to truly understand the value of something, it's well worth imagining life without it. Can you envision a UK economy without engineering? In 2018 the UK engineering industry employed in excess of 5.6 million people and accounted for a total of 26.9% of all registered UK businesses. According to the latest Engineering UK report (2018), the engineering sector generated £1.23 trillion (23.2% of the UK turnover).

It's clear we need Engineering in the UK, both now and in the AI-infused time to come. What better way to secure the future of the industry in the UK then to offer high standard opportunities for learning and development? Here at EAL, we see this being encapsulated in the form of apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships are a hot topic for everybody at the moment, educationalists, government, employers, learners and parents alike. Engineering is an increasingly vital requirement to the future of the UK economy and in order to sustain the growth it is imperative that new talent is nurtured in the right way. With the engineering sector being at the forefront of an increased need for automation and connectivity, it appears as though the industry will always be on the cusp of new technological changes. This further adds to a need for professionally recognised opportunities for practical and relevant training, especially when you consider the expected creation of an additional 157,000 new jobs within the industry. Engineering UK has estimated that more than 2 million new entrants are needed over the course of the next 10 years in order to adequately satisfy employer demand (there is already a reported annual recruitment shortfall of 110,000).

When the subject of apprenticeships is brought up in conversation, there is more often than not, the presumption that an apprentice is a young learner, just embarking on studies after leaving school. Whilst this may be true of the UK in the 1950s and 1960s, over the last 20 years this has changed somewhat. With the introduction of the Modern Apprenticeship came the launch of three different funding streams: 16-18 years, 19-24 years and 25-plus.

The statistics reveal that the biggest increase in apprenticeships in the 2013 / 2014 period was within the 25-plus category. These peaked at 227,000 starts across all industries, whereas for the 16-18 years category (where we have preconceptions of apprenticeships) there were only 114,000 starts in the same year.

Through recent reforms and changes, apprenticeships have become more stable than ever. The employer-led redesign of the relevant standards has meant that apprenticeships are now much more highly-valued frameworks of training and education. They are a valued proposition, not only by employers but also learners and parents of learners due to the way that practical skills are endorsed and industry knowledge is gained. The 2018 Industry Apprentice Council report revealed a high percentage of satisfied learners. 91% of apprentices told us they are happy or very happy to be completing an apprenticeship.

As EAL and the Enginuity Group, we believe that apprenticeships are a highly-intensive training and qualification opportunity for individuals choosing to advance in their learning. The opportunity to attain industry standard knowledge and relevant skills within a recognised framework is of interest to people working on all levels, especially with the backing of employers.

We are at a pivotal stage of the new apprenticeship journey. Changes will take time to implement and there is still so much to learn from the stakeholders who are impacted by revolutions within the scope of apprenticeships. As a vital part of the further education industry, we are continually in a state of change and flux. However we are always intentional about standing up for the best outcomes for learners and employers alike. After all, they are the bedrock of our economy, and we are an essential service to help them achieve their ambitions.

For a more in-depth article, analysis and review of all things apprenticeships, download our latest Spring RevEAL here.