Apprenticeship programmes are finally getting the recognition that they deserve. However Andrew Pengelly, WorldSkills UK Expert in Joinery and a Trainer and Assessor at Didac, believes we must all do more, including apprentices themselves, to show young people just how far the training can take you.
Like most people working in the construction industry, I was reassured by the news in the Autumn Statement that the forthcoming Industrial Strategy will include plans to build on the country’s skills base as part of the drive to improve productivity. Key to these plans is the expansion of the high quality apprenticeship programme already in place, which some might say is the biggest challenge to its success.
However for me, the largest obstacle facing the woodworking industry, which Didac Ltd specialises in, is changing how young people, their parents and teachers see apprenticeships in our industry. To put things into perspective, in 2014-2015, there were 499,900 apprenticeship starts in England, 14% more than the previous academic year.
However a quick analysis of these figures and it is revealed that the furniture, furnishings and interiors industry only took on 460 apprentices. Additionally, the wood and timber processing and merchants industry only filled 30 apprenticeship roles.
The woodworking industry requires a very similar skill set to the engineering sector, and if we don’t start engaging with the next generation of workers we could experience a sharp decline in the number of skilled workers entering the industry. This is where I believe WorldSkills UK Competitions come into their own.
Competition activity has long been recognised by the construction industry as a proven method to raise standards and upskill apprentices. Indeed, at Didac we use competitions to underpin the training we deliver and we strongly believe that it was this activity that helped contribute to the organisation being judged by Ofsted as an outstanding, grade 1 provider.
We encourage all the employers that we work with to enter their apprentices into competitions and I always say to apprentices if you aren’t involved in WorldSkills UK Competitions, get involved.
At The Skills Show in 2016, Liam Martin, who is completing his apprenticeship training with Didac and won Gold in the SkillBuild/WorldSkills UK Joinery Competition.
This means he can now say he is the best young joiner in the UK and we hope that he will go onto be selected for the training programme, run by WorldSkills UK, for the international WorldSkills competition in 2019 which is being held in Kazan, Russia. What an accolade for a young person just starting out in their career. With competition success, an apprentice has the pick of any job.
But we must get better at using competitions to attract new talent into the industry. Those who enter the competitions are role models for those young people who are thinking about working in construction and also to those who may not have even considered a career in the industry.
Their competition success and future work journeys are the inspiration to show young people, their parents, and teachers just how far an apprenticeship can take you. Events like The Skills Show and W16 are already using competitions to achieve just this.
As 2017 gets underway, my hope is all apprentices will consider entering SkillBuild, part of the portfolio of competitions managed by WorldSkills UK, and I hope all training providers and employers will look at implementing competition activity into their training plans.
But above all, I hope as an industry we start shouting more loudly about the competitions success of our apprentices. At Didac, we certainly will be.
For more information on WorldSkillsUk click here.