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29th August 2018/ Paul McGuinness, Director of Operations

Securing Future Engineering Talent via Modern Apprenticeship Programmes

In the media furore that surrounded the last budget, it was pointed out many times that UK productivity is currently far from being what it should be. In fact, overall it trails behind what most other economically developed nations are achieving. A major factor when it comes to tackling this issue in the future will be providing more comprehensive training to the country’s workforce and improving their skillsets. Having fully effective apprentice schemes in place is certain to play a vital part in reaching that objective.

Apprenticeships have been a feature of the British work culture for centuries– even predating the industrial revolution. They were first entered onto legal statutes as mandatory for key trades way back in the middle of the 16th Century. By the 1960s, over 35% of all male school leavers started their working lives as apprentices (according to figures from the Institute of Directors). Though their popularity has waned over the decades since then, there is now renewed focus on apprenticeships once again, with many young people seeing the apprenticeship route as better for their career progression than going to university.

HRH Prince Micheal of Kent tours the new facility at HARWIN, Portsmouth

In 2013, the UK government established a number of Trailblazer groups. These were tasked with developing apprenticeship standards in core industry sectors, in order to make the aptitudes that apprentices acquire truly fit for purpose and thus build a more effective nationwide apprenticeship programme. From the start of the 2017 tax year, businesses with a payroll above £3 million have had to pay an apprenticeship levy. Smaller enterprises which don’t pay this are responsible for funding 10% of the costs of training up and assessing their apprentices, while the government pays the remainder.

It is not just about government policy though. The private sector needs to be looking to drive things forward too. Through well-formulated apprentice schemes that give real support to those involved and sets them challenges that will stretch their capabilities, companies will be able to make the most of the young talent that is out there. The more that these companies are willing to put in, then the more they will get out.

In my opinion, what really differentiates Harwin’s approach to its apprentice intake is that these individuals are each given actual responsibilities from a very early stage. They get to take ownership of specific tasks and activities, which helps to motivate them and gives them greater opportunity for growth. An important element of this has been setting apprentices the goal of finding ways to improve the company’s operational efficiency levels.

Design Engineer and apprentice review monitor

Apprentices at Harwin are supported with any additional training they need to undertake alongside their day-to-day role where they can gain an HNC, HND or even degree qualifications. In addition to this, our newly announced Harwin Academy, which has been established in conjunction with Havant & South Downs College, will enable participants to obtain an internationally-recognised engineering qualification, while also spending time working in our Portsmouth headquarters. The academy gives students the opportunity to apply for a full-time apprenticeship with us.

School leavers who are looking to gain knowledge and experience in a hands-on role should definitely investigate modern apprenticeships and other similar schemes. These are a great way to kick off your career - allowing you to learn whilst still earning a wage, and avoiding the debt issues that university students often have to face.

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