Becoming an apprentice plumber or electrician is not an easy task. In both areas, it takes four years for apprentices to gain enough theoretical and practical experience to become qualified and gain the Level 3 award
. This requires a lot of hard work and dedication from the individual involved and also relies on a small business to have the long-term foresight to take on an apprentice so they can gain the necessary on-the-job experience.
Apprenticeships should be seen as a way to tackle the problem with skills shortages as well as increasing the employment levels of younger people. It would also be great if the training that apprentices received was so good that the impact of experienced people retiring would be minimised by the quality of newly qualified electricians and plumbers. Having well-qualified young people may also provide a long term solution to the current reliance on short term migrant works.
While employers who take on apprentices will always do their best to ensure the new member of staff is always well-supported, the Government could be doing more to improve the quality of training providers, who are responsible for reporting and inspecting on the progress of the apprentices. Currently, the standards can vary from provider to provider, where the best results come from competent trainers who are in or have recently worked in the plumbing or electricity industries rather than more theoretical teachings that try to cover a broad range of disciplines and industries.
Traineeships are an increasingly encouraging area
that government could also be spending more time and money on. These are 12- 17 week courses that help young people improve their Maths and English skills, as well as giving them ‘real-world’ hand-on experience of a day in the life of the selected profession. This gives them a real flavour of the industry before embarking on an apprenticeship and results have shown that traineeships have greatly enhanced the motivation of would-be apprentices and also gives employers some kind of insight into the person they might offer an apprenticeship to.
One of the main issues with the traineeships is they are underfunded and currently only available to young people who have finished their compulsory education and not in education, employment or training (aka NEETs). While it’s a positive thing to be bringing NEETs back into the world of work, off benefits and giving them a purpose, many industry professionals have argued that the traineeships should be made available to young people who are in their final year of compulsory education.
This option would enable teachers and education institutions to assist those with poor attendance or lacking in motivation to combine organised, practical work experience alongside their typical classroom studies. It would help more young people make the transition from compulsory education into an apprenticeship before they have to be rescued from the NEET category. However, as it currently stands, the government is simply not providing enough funding or leadership to make this option possible.
The UK needs to have strong generations of skilled plumbers and electricians in the future so they need to start improving the options available for young people immediately, by making them see the value in learning a trade, as well as showing employers that it really is worth investing in a young person for the future of, not only their business, but the future of Great Britain.
Article by Benjamin Clarke
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