Wednesday, November 14, 2012

News: Government urged to reform Apprenticeships programme


An 11 month inquiry that involved a visit to Rotherham to hear directly from people involved in apprenticeship schemes, as well as the more traditional Westminster-based evidence sessions, has concluded with the publishing of a report highlighting areas of the Government's Apprenticeships programme that need reform.

The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee was tasked with looking at funding, quality and standards of apprenticeships and the National Apprenticeship Service.

Earlier this year, the University of Sheffield's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing in Rotherham, hosted the first ever Commons Select Committee evidence gathering session to be held outside London.

Keith Ridgway, research director at the AMRC and managers and apprentices from local manufacturers, Sheffield Forgemasters International, Firth Rixson, Newburgh Engineering and AESSEAL gave evidence to the committee, highlighting the need for more support and new national standards for engineering apprenticeships.

The conclusions and recommendations contained in the report include a recommendation that the Government defines an overarching strategy and clear purpose for the apprenticeship programme, that an apprenticeship should be formally defined, and that quality, not quantity should be the over-riding measure of success for apprenticeships.

Other recommendations include a simpler and more efficient delivery system, that schools and colleges place vocational and academic progression on an equal standing, and that apprenticeship schemes show that they are value for money.

Paul Blomfield, Sheffield Central MP and member of the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee, welcomed the report. He said: "Our report calls for us to be more ambitious as a country about apprenticeships. They shouldn't be seen as only providing basic skills, but offering the opportunity to train to the highest level.

"The AMRC is setting the pace, building on our strong traditional apprenticeships to offer vocational education to postgraduate level.

"Apprenticeships should provide another route to achieving the highest level of qualifications alongside universities, not an alternative to higher education but parallel to it.

"When the Select Committee heard evidence at the AMRC we met a young man, who started an apprenticeship aged 16 and has now begun a work-based degree, with the prospects of going on to post graduate study.

"We've also got to make it easier for small businesses to take on apprentices. If less than half of the small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in South Yorkshire took on an apprentice, we could wipe out youth unemployment."

The AMRC is a world-class centre for advanced machining and materials research for aerospace and other high-value manufacturing sectors. Up to six apprentices are taken on each year. The apprenticeship programme has been running for five years and so far 11 have completed the programme. One is working in industry and the other ten are working as technicians and engineers within the AMRC and Nuclear AMRC.

The AMRC's £20.5m training centre on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) will provide training in the practical and academic skills that manufacturing companies need to compete globally, from apprenticeship through to Doctorate and MBA level.

The focus will be on 250 students aged from 16 upwards, to be taken on paid apprenticeships with opportunities to progress on to postgraduate courses.

AMRC website

Images: AMRC


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