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EAL managing director calls for clarity and parity on the apprenticeship issue

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Ahead of National Apprentice Week (7-11 February), Ann Watson, managing director of specialist engineering and manufacturing awarding organisation EAL (EMTA Awards Limited), has called on the government to build on the momentum generated in recent years to finally put vocational training on a par with its academic counterpart.

"The last two years have seen a dramatic shift in the way government has viewed apprenticeships. For too long now, this country channelled our brightest and best down the degree route, suggesting it was the only option. University become the gold standard for school leavers at the expense of our skills sector. Today, the situation has changed and a degree is no longer the guarantor of a job in the way it was 20 years ago. In the meantime, the skilled sector – for example manufacturing and engineering – is crying out for new blood and can provide life-long, engaging careers for students.

"As a country, we need to ensure that both university and vocational training are promoted equally to young people who are deciding on their next move. Bright children, regardless of background, should be made aware of the merits of vocational training; an apprenticeship, for example, provides a mix of academic and on-the-job learning that can make the student incredibly valuable once they have finished their training."

Watson continued: "We have recently seen signs of improvement in the manufacturing sector, and it has been reported time and again how sectors like this will play an important role in leading the UK out of recession. But how can this happen if they don't have the skills within the workforce?"

Watson highlights how the government's latest initiative, the Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England (SASE), is likely to be highly detrimental to engineering and manufacturing industries when implemented. She concluded: "A one size fits all mentality does not work for skilled industries whose apprentices require training programmes bespoke to their trade. We need to see both clarity and consideration when it comes to apprenticeships; clarity when it comes to the Government's plans for the future of the skills sector, and consideration for the needs of the highly skilled industries which are vital to the country's economy and industrial heritage."


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