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Skills gap cannot be plugged by apprentices alone; Government need to act now

Skills gap cannot be plugged by apprentices alone; Government need to act now

The Prime Minister was keen to meet our two apprentices on Monday as he visited in the run up to the general elections taking place in just 98 days. The Government are quick to talk about our future engineers and leaders, with welfare caps announced last October in order to raise an annual £255m to fund 3 million new apprenticeships between now and 2020 in order to secure a better future for Britain. We are proud of our apprentices, as we are of all our staff. We currently have a tooling apprentice and a business admin apprentice who will absolutely help to build toward the future for us; given

Photo of PM with Apprentice Toolmaker

David Cameron talks to MD Adam Hooper and Apprentice Toolmaker Nathan Jones

that we are currently celebrating 150 years in business, we understand better than most the value of investing in the future and just how important our people are. The issue of the current skills gap, however, needs to be addressed if we are to find ourselves in a position to make it to 2020 and beyond; apprenticeships have their place but manufacturers around the country, much like us, need a solution now, not in ten years’ time. When our customers come to us demanding solutions, and when we talk about the research and development work being pushed so hard by the Government with their ever-increasing R&D tax breaks to encourage investment, it would be neither realistic nor fair to expect a pre- or even a recently-qualified apprentice to take this on and demonstrate the gravitas, experience and context required to succeed in the very competitive global marketplace in which we operate. We have recently advertised for an Engineer to support our sales and manufacturing teams; the experience and qualifications we are looking for are standard across industry; some CAD/CAM abilities, a basic mechanical engineering foundation and the ability/desire to learn about specific material groups and manufacturing techniques. We have had some (though not an abundance of) applications from around Europe, a couple from beyond, and almost none from the UK – but don’t misunderstand; we have staff working for us from other countries around the world, and are happy to take on the right applicant whatever their background, but they need to be enticed here (or our engineers encouraged not to leave for foreign shores); the question David Cameron so skilfully avoids addressing, is what is government doing right now for SME’s like us who have an engineering skills gap that needs to be plugged urgently. Of course, Government works mainly at a strategic level and the levers of power are generally too big and clumsy to reach with finesse to where they are most needed, on the front line of the real economy; nonetheless, this is what is required by the many companies like ourselves that service the multinational organisations that Government is more comfortable dealing with. While Mr. Cameron and his fellow politicians of all parties are all too keen to sympathise with companies struggling to fill their urgent needs for skilled, motivated and capable staff, the evidence sadly confirms that policy has singularly failed to deliver a reliable supply of apprentices or graduates with qualifications and attitudes relevant to the world of work.

Vince Cable at the EEF Make it Britain conference

Vince Cable says teachers know absolutely nothing about the world of work

As Dr. Vince Cable controversially said at the EEF conference last year, “most teachers know absolutely nothing about the world of work” and this may explain why so many students have an ever-decreasing interest in manufacturing or technical careers, and ever more unrealistic expectations of their “right” to being granted a well-paid job in the field of their choosing, even if they have what Margaret Mountford has recently labelled a “useless degree”…..

The post Skills gap cannot be plugged by apprentices alone; Government need to act now appeared first on Martin's Rubber Company.

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