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The future of apprenticeships in the Cotswolds

PUBLISHED: 15:24 25 February 2019

Renishaw apprentices

Renishaw apprentices

Paul Groom Photography paulgroom.com

Numbers of people taking up apprenticeships may be falling - but the Cotswolds is still a hotbed of bright, young talent fuelled by world-class employers and training providers

The latest House of Commons Briefing Paper on apprenticeship statistics makes depressing reading. But in truth, only if you’re a glass-half-full kind of person.

Because though the numbers of school leavers and young people taking up apprenticeships have fallen exponentially since the Government introduced its Apprenticeship Levy in May 2017, there is still much to celebrate.

Cotswolds employers, from aerospace giants to pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufacturers to intelligence agencies, are still flying the flag for on and off-the-job training to help plug the skills shortage blighting the UK.

In 2017/18, there were 369,700 apprenticeship starts in England - that’s 125,200 fewer than the previous year.

The Government attributes this to the new funding system, which led to tumbling numbers in the final quarter of 2016/17.

The impact was seismic, and recovery has been slow, particularly in the over-25s age group across all the major sectors ¬health; public services; business, administration and law; retail and commercial enterprise and engineering and manufacturing.

Nationally in 2016/17, over-25s accounted for 46% of apprenticeship starts; 19-24 year olds accounted for 39% and under 19s, 25%.

The number of starts for 19-24 year olds fell to its lowest level since 2009/10.

The South West is faring better than most regions, according to the latest DfE data.

2017/18 saw a drop in take-up of 19% on the previous period - from 54,000 to 43,000.

That’s compared with the East and West Midlands, hardest hit with a 29% fall. Only the North East was worse, with a 33% drop in the numbers signing up.

Of the major sectors - health, public services and care; business administration and law; retail and engineering - only health is at present enjoying rising numbers of new starts.

In the previous period, electricians and engineers took the lion’s share of new business. And it’s those sectors which Cotswolds employers are determined to address. Global engineering technologies company Renishaw is recruiting for a record 68 apprentices across its Gloucestershire and Wales sites.

The 2019 intake will be the 40th round of apprentices to join Renishaw, which has taken apprentices every year since 1979. Applications for a range of roles including engineering, software, embedded electronic design and development, and IT are open until March 1.

Renishaw held an information evening at its Gloucestershire headquarters for students interested in science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) careers. At the event, over 500 students from years 11 to 13 heard about the pathways into STEM careers, including apprenticeship schemes after GCSEs or A-levels and a graduate scheme after university. Students also had the opportunity to hear personal experiences from current apprentices and graduates at the company and to ask questions about Renishaw.

“My teachers pushed university as the only option after leaving school,” explained Lucy Spiteri-Beale, a Software Apprentice at Renishaw. “However, I was lucky to hear from STEM Ambassadors at Renishaw who encouraged me to apply for a degree apprenticeship, which allows me to study at university while working. Now, as a STEM Ambassador I get to let students know about their options.”

“Renishaw has consistently recruited apprentices since 1979 because of the value they add to the company,” explained Chris Pockett, Head of Communications. “Apprentices have the opportunity to work on projects in a range of departments to find their passion and future career direction. Our apprentices go on to have fulfilling careers in a wide range of engineering and commercial positions in the company. For example, Gareth Hankins, Director of Group Manufacturing Services joined as aged just 16.”

“At Renishaw, apprentices are heavily involved in projects from the start,” explained Ryan Taylor, Engineering Apprentice. “Each department treats you as a valued member of the team and offer you personal development.”

As well as gaining on-the-job experience and nationally-recognised qualifications, apprentices at Renishaw receive a tailored induction programme and in-house training to ensure they get the best possible experience. Apprentices are also eligible for Renishaw’s comprehensive benefits package, which includes a 9% non-contributory pension, private medical insurance and a competitive salary.

Landing that dream job...

Staverton-based Safran launched its policy for young professionals in 2008, focused on training and professional integration.

With more than 58,000 employees across the group, which makes world-leading landing gear for Boeing and Airbus, Safran added 6,000 new apprentices, interns and student researchers to its ranks in 2016.

It’s a member of the European Alliance for Apprenticeships (EAfA). It’s also forged ties with more than 40 schools and universities to deal with the industry skills shortage and help shape courses and training programmes.

“For us, it’s essential to link the acquisition of new skills and transmission of knowledge,” said a spokesman. “To support this approach, we have set up shared apprenticeship programmes, allowing our apprentices to do part of their apprenticeship at one of our subcontractors.”

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