04 March 2014

Employers urged to seize Apprenticeships reform opportunity

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The Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) is urging more employers in the chemical and process industries to make a major contribution to the reform of the UK’s Apprenticeships programme.

In 2012, the Richard Review of Apprenticeships recommended fundamental changes including improving the quality of Apprenticeships, simplifying the system and putting employers ‘in the driving seat’.

Government reforms include giving employers direct funding for Apprenticeships from HM Revenue and Customs in the future and linking Apprenticeships to professional standards and registrations such as Engineering Technician (EngTech) and Registered Science Technician (RSciTech).

The call for greater employer involvement from the chemical and process industries follow today’s announcement of the first wave of eight Trailblazers Apprenticeships, using the new employer-led approach, to be approved by Government.

IChemE, which is a major supporter of the new Apprenticeships model, has been closely involved in the development of the Life Sciences and Industrial Sciences Trailblazer Apprenticeship alongside partners including GSK, Fujifilm Diosynth, Sellafield Ltd, Johnson & Johnson, Lotte Chemical UK Ltd, Lucite International, MedImmune and the Royal Society of Chemistry and Society of Biology . 

The new Life Sciences Apprenticeships are laboratory technician and science manufacturing technician, and are expected to be rolled out from September 2014. 

Dr David Brown, IChemE’s chief executive, said: “This is a huge opportunity for the engineering community to influence a major reform of the education system. Attracting more people to the engineering profession, improving education standards, avoiding skill shortages and receiving funding directly from Government are just some of the industry-wide benefits available.

“However, establishing a world-class Apprenticeship system does depend on businesses, of all sizes in the chemical and process industries, to get involved in the reform process.

“The announcement of the first eight Trailblazers Apprenticeships is just the start of the process. We need more employers to review the Trailblazer Apprenticeships to ensure they meet diverse business needs. 

“Feedback is needed to make sure they are easy-to-understand. The standards need to include the skills, knowledge and competency required to master specific occupations. And it’s essential that the Apprenticeship programme is properly accredited by the professional engineering organisations, so as to ensure Apprentices are equipped to meet the needs of business and to develop successful careers. 

“We shouldn’t forget the benefits to young people either. Professional registration as an EngTech or RSciTech will provide the individual with a recognised, credible, badge of professional competence which should be recognised by employers in a range of sectors. 

“None of this can be achieved without leadership, support and involvement by the business community”, concluded Brown.

The announcements coincide with National Apprenticeship Week 2014 which is taking place from 3–7 March 2014. Employers are being encouraged to pledge apprentice job vacancies throughout the week.

Matthew Hancock, skills and enterprise minister said: “National Apprenticeship Week is designed to celebrate Apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses and the wider economy. 

“We want to see Apprenticeships become the new norm for all ambitious young people, and employers who are dedicated to growing their own talent and increasing the skills base of the nation. 

“I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in this trailblazer for their commitment to Apprenticeships and Traineeships.”

The other Trailblazer Apprenticeships include: aerospace; automotive; digital industries; electro-technical; energy; financial services; and food and drink.

IChemE is a registered charity in England & Wales and a charity registered in Scotland (SC 039661).