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UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 1843-ii
House of COMMONS
TAKEN BEFORE the
Business Innovation and Skills Committee
Tuesday 6 March 2012
Professor KEIth Ridgway CBE, John Baragwanath OBE and rt hon Richard Caborn
Sharon Ward, Alison Bettac and Richard Cook
kyle johnson, chloe jones, luke shaw, CHRIS PARKIN and LEWIS NICHOLSON
Evidence heard in Public Questions 80 - 243
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
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Taken before the Business Innovation and Skills Committee
on Tuesday 6 March 2012
Mr Adrian Bailey (Chair)
Mr Brian Binley
Mr David Ward
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Professor Keith Ridgway CBE, Research Director, Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, John Baragwanath OBE, Projects Director, AMRC, and Rt Hon Richard Caborn, Adviser, AMRC, gave evidence.
Q80 Chair: Good morning and thank you for agreeing to be our witnesses this morning. You are the first panel, and I will not start the questioning until all our public are duly seated. For voice transcription purposes, could you introduce yourselves?
John Baragwanath: Hello. I am John Baragwanath and I am the Projects Director for the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC).
Richard Caborn: I am Richard Caborn. I am the Strategic Adviser to the AMRC.
Professor Ridgway: Keith Ridgway, Executive Dean of the Advanced Manufacturing Institute.
Q81 Chair: Thanks very much. I will just wait until everybody is seated. Perhaps we should have charged.
Mr Binley: Perhaps nobody would have paid.
Chair: There are some seats down here. Perhaps we should have used the Government’s approach to regulation: one in, one out. We have 50 minutes for our first session, and quite a few questions. I remind our witnesses that, while we welcome contributions from everyone, we don’t necessarily need a contribution from everyone on every question. If you feel you have nothing to add to what a previous speaker has said, do not feel the need to. Otherwise if you have something to add or subtract, your comment will be welcome. Can I just start with a very general question: what role does the AMRC play in terms of apprenticeships? Who would like to lead on this?
Professor Ridgway: We do work with local companies on improving manufacturing. It would be very difficult if we took their best operators to be our operators, so to poach from the local community is not a good thing. Five years ago we made the decision to start a training scheme for our own apprentices. We have now had 22 through that scheme; six have been through and 15 are still within the scheme. All our operators are now selftrained apprentices that we bring through.
Q82 Paul Blomfield: We are looking at the effective routes into apprenticeships, Keith, and we have been told by previous witnesses that fewer than half of businesses use Government apprenticeships. Does the ARMC use Government apprenticeships? How do you recruit your apprentices?
Professor Ridgway: We recruit from the local press and schools; we get a lot of applicants. We have to be very careful about the aspirations of people we recruit: we want machine operators; we want people that will go through that and become technicians and programmers, and eventually maybe go on to do engineering degrees. We want people to drop at all levels through that scheme.
Q83 Paul Blomfield: You don’t use Government apprenticeships?
Professor Ridgway: No.
Q84 Paul Blomfield: Why?
Richard Caborn: They have not been as relevant to what we require here.
Q85 Paul Blomfield: In what way, Richard?
Richard Caborn: In the way that there are not, we believe, the nationally agreed standards for apprenticeships. It is an interesting question that you ask, because we are now moving from a relatively small training area to a much bigger area. We are looking at building, just across the way there, a training centre for 250 apprentices to go through that apprentice training per year. Uniquely, it is one where a university, I believe for the first time, has got involved and motivated such a development, because, as you know, the AMI and the AMRC are part of the university, so effectively the training will be part of that as well.
That has been driven because RollsRoyce are going to build a couple of factories here, and the local employers-who you are going to interview a little later-put skilled labour right at the top of their risk register.
Q86 Chair: Could I stop you there for a totally different reason? I have had a note that we are getting massive feedback off the mics. Can I ask everyone to switch off mobile phones? I am told that it does affect this system; I have already told the Committee to. Just putting them on silent is not enough. I am sorry to interrupt you, Richard.
Richard Caborn: It’s alright. That is what we are going to be developing over the next period. If I could quickly put it into context: not only are we going to give the opportunity for young people to be able to come in here at 16 years plus to start an apprenticeship, but within that context we will be able to give those young people exposure to further education, higher education, probably in a seamless way that has not been the case before. It has been one of the fault lines, I believe, in the development of young people.
To complete that picture, we are also looking at how we can get down the education supply chain in a much more effective way. One of the propositions that we have put in our paper, which we have circulated to you this morning, is to have an engineering and science experience centre, not dissimilar to what they do in the Science Museum in London-and in fact they are coming up here next week to work in partnership with us-so that every infant and junior school pupil will have access at least once a year, if not twice a year, over the seven-year period, to come in and have that hands-on experience of what the world of science and engineering is really about.
To some extent, our education system has been devoid of that type of exposure. We are also looking at some of the teachers coming in, who probably have not had that experience either. We are looking at the whole of that supply chain, as it were, from the infants, the juniors, right through, and developing a skilled apprentice training here, with access into further and higher education. I suppose a young person coming here at 16 years of age could, in eight or nine years, go out as a chartered engineer.
What we suspect, which is fundamental to our paper, is that we don’t believe we have those national standards in this country. We are highly critical of the way the word "apprenticeships" has been used. We say in our paper very clearly that there needs to be a distinction between trainee and apprentice. The devaluing of apprenticeships has made many parents up and down this country give wrong advice to young people, who don’t go into apprenticeships. You cannot, cannot get an apprenticeship in six weeks.
Q87 Chair: Have you evidence of this?
Richard Caborn: The Science Museum, who I spoke to last week about this very issue-and you would probably be interested to get a paper from them as well, Mr Bailey-say that it is very difficult to get the parents of young people to acknowledge that engineering is a profession to go into, rather than going to higher education first.
Q88 Chair: I understand that is one problem. The other problem that you touched upon is the, if you like, devaluation of the brand "apprenticeship"-the perception of it. Have you any evidence that parents no longer regard apprenticeships in quite the same light as historically they used to?
Richard Caborn: Anecdotally, yes. Factually, I have not got evidence, but I am sure there will be the evidence out there. If one is looking historically, since the EITB ceased to function in 1992, we have seen the falling off of standards, specifically in engineering.
Q89 Chair: Sorry, excuse my ignorance-EITB?
Richard Caborn: The Engineering Industrial Training Board, which was part of the Industrial Training Board structure, which came in in 1964. Again, in our paper we argue the case that this Committee ought to consider whether we bring back the Engineering Industrial Training Board national standards, both for the first year of training and then the module training after that. That can be done by statutory instrument, because the primary legislation is still on the statute book, as we know. We think there is a case now, if we are serious about moving the GDP per capita of our manufacturing base from 11-12% to the 25% of the Germans, for that type of intervention to make that happen. Government and industry have got to take responsibility for that. I think we argue that very forcefully.
Professor Ridgway: There is an objection to the EITB training programme, particularly about the levy; there was a levy on the industry, and people did not like that. People did like the continuous standard, where everybody was coming off the same for every college. We have a lot of evidence from local companies who are saying to us, "We have a lot of variability in the product that we are getting from the colleges, and the EITB was a better way of controlling that."
Q90 Mr Ward: The alternative, if you are concerned about the devaluing of the term "apprenticeship", is to call the young people you are working with something else. It is a familiar refrain, this one that we are picking up, but when a Government is proclaiming and boasting about nearly half a million new starts on apprenticeships, and some of those we know are a relatively short timescale, I am wondering whether this thing can be recovered?
John Baragwanath: I think the national standard can be recovered. If you compare us with Germany, where the bar is set very, very high, people are not allowed to call themselves apprentices unless they are going through formalised training that is agreed at a national level. An apprentice in this country might receive relatively poor training or excellent training; there is no distinction between the two.
Q91 Paul Blomfield: Specifically on this point, we have had discussions with previous witnesses about what is meant by the term "apprenticeship". It is the starting point, in a sense, for our inquiry, isn’t it? If we are to look at how the brand has been confused, or tarnished, but we have got to rebuild it, we have got to be clear: what do you mean by an apprenticeship? What would your core components of an apprenticeship be, as opposed to some of the stuff that is in-house training and is happening under that brand at the moment?
Richard Caborn: There are two ex-apprentices here; we are a bit on the old side now, but John and I will tell you what we think an apprentice is.
John Baragwanath: An apprenticeship is an agreement between the employer and the apprentice. The employer agrees to train that apprentice to a certain level, and in return the apprentice agrees to deliver for the employer to achieve that certain standard. Then, in days gone by, we would hope that apprentice would be capable of going to the highest level within the company. Indeed, if you look at some of our most successful companies, for example Rolls-Royce, a very high percentage of their senior managers are ex-apprentices.
Richard Caborn: If you go back and look at the modelling of the Engineering Industrial Training Board, you had the one year experience training, which was generic, but then you went on to the modular base of the EITB, which allowed each person to take the required modules to build up the full apprenticeship over that period of three to four years. That also meant having access to further and higher education as well. You need the national standard, because after 1992 it was really left to the employers what standard they trained to. That is where Government have a responsibility, with industry and with the sector, to make sure.
That is where my view is. I think others on this side can probably speak for themselves. The Technology Strategy Board, with what they are developing in the Technology Innovation Centres-two of the TICs are here, one nuclear, one aerospace-could take some responsibility to start looking at where we need to modernise the structures of the Engineering Industrial Training Board, and that would very quickly bring you the national standards that most people could coalesce around.
Q92 Mr Binley: Gentlemen, I am not sure the branding is that important. It sounds to me that you engineers are being a bit elitist, quite frankly. I come from the boot and shoe industry, where we have very little qualification and hardly any level of qualification that has any meaning. What we are trying to do is widen the thing. Does it matter that employees know exactly what a qualification means, or are we doing, to your mind, what we have done with degrees and devaluing the term to a certain extent?
John Baragwanath: That is exactly what we are saying. I think the term "apprentice" has been probably applied too widely, but I agree that we could change the name of the apprentices we are looking at in manufacturing and call them something different, if that is what we want. Apprentices in Germany go right across the board and cover most skills, but there is a distinction between them; they call themselves different names and that is a solution.
Richard Caborn: I understand the boot and shoe industry-we had a good discussion last night about that-and it is highly skilled; there is no doubt about that. When you are looking at high-value manufacturing, and you are looking at sectors that are globalised or internationalised, you are in a different sector altogether. The aerospace industry, and the green energy industry, the nuclear industry in particular, is internationalised, and therefore the quality you are looking for, and the standards you are looking for, are international. Therefore, to draw a comparison down between the boot and shoe as against high-value manufacturing, both have different characteristics, but one has that international and globalisation to contend with.
Professor Ridgway: You still need standards in either industry: if somebody changed jobs and went to a different company, they would like to know they had got that basic training.
Q93 Mr Binley: But it is manageable within the brand; that is the point I was trying to get at.
Richard Caborn: Engineers are not elitist; we are just good.
John Baragwanath: And different.
Richard Caborn: And different too.
Q94 Mr Binley: Carrying on on that theme, our information tells us that advanced-level apprenticeships have increased from 57,000 in 2006-07 to 154,000 2010-11, and higher have gone up from 100,000 in 2006-07, to 200,200 in 2010-11. Is there any devaluation of those qualifications in the increase in those figures? Does that worry you?
Professor Ridgway: It would not necessarily be the numbers that would devalue it; the danger is the difference in standards in the different places that are offering apprenticeships. That is the concern.
Q95 Mr Binley: We are talking about advanced-level apprenticeships and higher apprenticeships; we are talking about the top end of the almost 500,000 starts last year. I come back to my point: does it bother you that there is a devaluation in that top end?
Richard Caborn: I don’t think there is a devaluation at the top end. What we have seen, and you experienced that yesterday at Forgemasters and companies of that nature-look at Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems, and look around this area-is that the investment into apprenticeships has become more and more real over the recent past. The demand on the skilled sector is growing, and with the investments that are taking place in this area-just across there there are going to be two new factories built by RollsRoyce, 600 jobs over the next few years-that needs to be supplied, and that will be 600 in the supply train.
It is interesting when you see the editorial in The Observer yesterday: "Britain needs to shape an industrial strategy". It goes on and says that "82,000 engineers, scientists, and technicians are required over the next four years". The penny has dropped. If we are going to start moving towards a greater GDP per capita in terms of manufacturing, then one of the main elements of that is skilled labour, and people know the impediment to growth is going to be skilled labour. That is true, and that is why those figures are moving.
Q96 Mr Binley: Therein lies my concern, because in Northampton we have got the largest precision engineering enterprise zone in the county. I talk to people like Lotus, GE Precision Engineering; they are not getting the skills out of our educational system now, let alone when we are going to have 14,000 extra jobs in the sector. I want to ask you about the other side of the coin: what advice would you give us to put in our report about how we increase the numbers while ensuring the quality?
Richard Caborn: If I wanted to see something come out of your report, you have got to define what an apprenticeship is: it has got to be valued; it has got to be properly policed; it has got to have a national programme of achievement; and it has got to be funded in a way that is a partnership between Government and the private sector. That ownership of those national standards is very important indeed, but I believe the valuing of apprenticeship has got to be brought back. The engagement of education is crucial: in our very small way, in our new apprentice training centre here, we are going to challenge that. We have challenged that in the supply chain of education, from the infants right through to a master’s degree as an engineer.
That needs to be rolled out across the Technology Strategy Board, the TICs, and should be taken up by Government if you are going to address the problem. Again, I go back to this point: if you want to increase the wealth-creating part of our economy from 12% to 20% or 25%, near the Germans, then you have to intervene in that, and skills are crucial to it.
Q97 Mr Binley: I think we are on the same side. You submitted a paper this morning; does it give that information here?
Richard Caborn: Yes. That gives our view.
Q98 Mr Binley: That is excellent; we have got it. My final question is about what level of age are apprentices generally recruited in your sector: there is this business of 16 to 18, and 18 to 24, and so forth. What is the relevant age in your sector?
Professor Ridgway: Our experience is it is 16 to 18 we are recruiting. We are recruiting five good GCSEs, and also some people who have got maybe one or two ALevels, or are on that ALevel route and decide to step off it. That is the basic level.
Mr Binley: That is certainly the information we got from Forgemasters yesterday.
Q99 Julie Elliott: As a follow-up to that, is there any leeway to bring in somebody who is perhaps older than 18 and has got some work experience in the area but has not been formally trained? Is it a flexible admission or is it very hard and fast-if you have reached a certain age you cannot get on these programmes?
Professor Ridgway: Our oldest is 24-they could be in their 30s or 40s. It is just generally they are 16 to 18.
Q100 Julie Elliott: How long does it take to train an apprentice to the required level before companies see a return on their investment?
Professor Ridgway: Probably into your second year we are starting to see a return. We use our apprentices as almost our tool room now; they are making the test rigs for the jigs and fixtures. For the first year it is intensive training, the second year they are with us, and in that second year we are starting to see value from them.
Q101 Julie Elliott: Thank you. We have heard that there may not be a demand in some sectors for Level 3 and 4 apprentices. Is that the case in your sector, or is there demand in your sector for the higher level apprentices?
Professor Ridgway: There is demand right through. One problem that was brought up before is that we are in a very good position: we have a lot of potential apprentices applying for every job, and we see the opportunity for people to go up to a part-time degree and into an MSc, although we do not want everybody to take that route. All employers want some people to come up and say, "I want to stay as a tool maker, as a skilled man," and not necessarily progress. The difficulty is keeping that balance of apprenticeships and where they go through the whole company.
Q102 Julie Elliott: Is there the flexibility in your programmes to do that-to stop at a certain level or carry on?
Professor Ridgway: The flexibility is there to stop wherever or go all the way through. Because we can be almost too selective, the danger is we pick the academic stars and they all want to go through. We do want-
Richard Caborn: Turners.
Professor Ridgway: -Turners, yes; we want people who are skilled hands as well.
Richard Caborn: It is a real problem, and it is interesting as we have gone round to Rolls-Royce and to BAE Systems that the recruitment has got to be screened in a way that some of the young people coming in are stopping as the artisans; they are going to be the turners, the fitters, and the machinists. It is no good everybody becoming an engineer. It is a balance of how you screen for your input into those apprenticeships-whether some are going to stop at the artisan level.
Q103 Julie Elliott: If you are saying that people with five GCSEs and so on should come in, is that perhaps not the right measure to bring people into apprenticeships?
Professor Ridgway: We have talked about this long and hard. Some base level skills in the industry are important, but we are coming to the conclusion that we have got to recruit on character, personality, attitude-they want to be apprentices. That is just as important really.
Q104 Chair: Could I piggyback on your question, Julie? One of the complaints I constantly get from small businesses in the Black Country is that the people they are getting are not work ready, and that there has to be some sort of pre-apprenticeship training with the so-called soft skills. Have you found that a problem?
Professor Ridgway: It is a very common complaint. In the programme we are putting forward, those additional skills-project management, presentation skills-are being put into that as an added part of the course. It is a very common complaint.
Q105 Mr Binley: Can I press a little bit further, because you know we visited Forgemasters, which was immensely impressive-the way they handled those massive chunks of metal was quite startling. When we talked to the apprentices and I specifically asked them whether they felt that in their normal education up to 16 to 18 they got any information whatsoever that was helpful about the workplace-whether they thought the connection in any way had importance-not one of them said yes. Not one of them. They all said there was no connection at all. Isn’t there a real problem there?
Professor Ridgway: Absolutely.
John Baragwanath: That is a definite problem.
Richard Caborn: That is the fault line. That is a fault line, there is no doubt, and that is why we would want to try to address that by what we are doing here, as I said, with the infant and junior schools, and the teachers as well, coming and looking at the world of science and engineering as a wealthcreating tool and gaining an understanding of what they are likely to be employed in. Even if they don’t come into the engineering side they will have an appreciation of what engineering, science and wealthcreation is all about. It is that lack of understanding, and it is across the whole education system.
Let’s be absolutely honest: we are going to give an opportunity for young people to come in at 16 and go to a master’s, but that has not been universally accepted within academia. There are those who believe that entrance into the world of higher education ought to be by academic qualifications, not by going through an apprenticeship. Does that devalue the degree or the chartered engineer? I do not think it does. If you are talking about engineers being elitist, you ought to talk to some of them in higher education. You will find there is a lot more elitism there than down here on the shop floor.
Q106 Chair: I noted your earlier remarks about the work that you were doing in schools. Forgive me for not knowing the local situation here: have you got any UTCs here and would you anticipate working with them?
Richard Caborn: We are launching one tomorrow. Lord Baker will be here at nine-thirty in the morning to launch the Sheffield UTC.
John Baragwanath: We are working with them.
Richard Caborn: We are working with them-absolutely.
Q107 Ann McKechin: Richard, I was interested to note the comments that you and Keith made about national guidelines through a training board framework. The Government has what is called Government Apprenticeship Frameworks; we have got 118 of them. How would you distinguish between the Government schemes and frameworks as they currently exist, and what you are talking about in terms of national guidelines and a training board: what is the difference?
Richard Caborn: I think you have got to come up with the legal base, first of all. The training board, the ITB, is a legal entity and has powers vested in it by Parliament. The Sector Skills Councils are executive bodies, and there is a fundamental difference there. That is where you start saying: how serious are you going to be? How serious is Government going to be about training? If you are going to a nondepartmental public body and you are looking at the legal base on which that is set, and it can set those national standards, by law it sets those national standards.
That is why you go back and revisit the 1964 Act, because that is where the primary legislation is. What you can do through statutory instruments, as you know, is bring in any sector. In 1992 the EITB was decoupled from the Industrial Training Board structure. If you want to go back to the standards and you want to give it a legal base, and therefore the statutory power to do that, then you have got to go back to the primary legislation; you have got to go from an executive to a nondepartmental public body.
Q108 Ann McKechin: That would suggest a much stricter basis of accreditation and enforcement against those that are not meeting the standard?
Richard Caborn: Absolutely. That is exactly what we are saying. If this country is serious about shifting and rebalancing the economy, and you want to drive wealth creation through manufacturing, then they are the decisions that Parliament has got to take. The implementation of that is industrial; the discipline is by the basis of law.
Q109 Ann McKechin: How do you think that would work? Keith, you have mentioned that there was opposition, which was the reason that Industrial Training Boards hit the buffers, because many companies did not like this levy on their profits. Is there a change in culture within the engineering sector currently, where people realise that there is a problem, there is a need to upskill, and there has got to be a new mechanism to try to achieve that?
Professor Ridgway: There is a huge recognition; over the last two or three years it has really struck home, and I would say it was nationally as well, that the skills base is getting older. We are all getting older, and there is nobody coming through that younger age group. We see that all the time. Companies are willing to support, train, pay for that training, and pay the salaries. With the levy, it got to the point where people still paid in if they did not have an apprentice, as I understand it.
Q110 Ann McKechin: But did it encourage them to make use of apprentices?
Professor Ridgway: Yes, but in a way it is better to have people who really want to do it. We find also there is a big difference amongst the colleges of FE. We have our apprentices in Barnsley, Sheffield or Doncaster and the relationship is different between the colleges: the quality and standards are different between the colleges. That needs to be a standard.
Q111 Ann McKechin: You have mentioned that you use your own framework; you don’t use a Government framework. How do you try to calibrate the framework of your apprenticeship system: do you look at international competitors? How have you tried to set a standard on your own?
Professor Ridgway: It is mainly looking at local companies, what they want, and what we are trying get to. We have found it very difficult in this region to get apprentices who can get training in machining. We are a machine shop; we specialise in machining, but it just was not there. We made an arrangement with the local colleges that a group of companies doing machining would take at least 10 a year between us, and they would alter the course to meet that requirement.
Richard Caborn: The other thing that is a very interesting development is if you look at Tata Steel here. At Stocksbridge they have just opened up a development, an extension to their training facility, which is very good. They use the EITB modules-basic training and then modules. Because there are a lot of specialists in this area with the small companies, who cannot give the breadth of training-Newburgh Engineering, for example-they are using Tata to give some first-year training and some broader experience. This is an area that we have to look at: how can smaller companies get access to that experience for their apprentices?
You had that with the EITB. One of the great successes of the EITB and the other training schemes was that you got that partnering, but it was not beggar my neighbour; it was not that you were pinching somebody. If you talk to Tata, they have an agreement that they are not going to poach these youngsters that have come in from other supplier companies that are around. There is a general consensus of responsibility across the sectors that training is important and that it is a collective, not just an individual company, issue.
Chair: I am conscious of the fact we have only six minutes left.
Q112 Mr Ward: Just quickly on the name, again-this brand. My father was an apprentice plumber until he was a plumber; I was a trainee accountant until I became an accountant; and so on. It seems to me the word is being used without something. For an apprentice fitter, it stops when they become one. This is the issue with a lot of the shelf-stacking jobs that have been called apprenticeships; it is not leading to anything. Maybe the answer to this is to insist that someone sticks something on the end-"apprentice what?"-and then to have that defined.
John Baragwanath: And they are to be trained to a national standard, because currently a lot of employers are training above the national standard.
Q113 Mr Ward: Back to my question, which was to do with the Sector Skills Councils and the frameworks: what work has been undertaken with them to arrive at the frameworks for advanced manufacturing? Are you involved in that at all?
Professor Ridgway: We just started working with Semta for ours, and also with nuclear. We found the nuclear is a much better planned organisation to work with, to be honest. It was quite clear what was required in passports, nuclear, and so forth. We found that a little bit different in the manufacturing area.
Richard Caborn: On the Sector Skills Council-I am not being critical of the Sector Skills Council; it would be wrong to misread what I am saying here-I believe you have got to get a legal bit. If you look at the Sector Skills Council and you look at the CITB at the moment and how they are run, look at that dispute that has been taking place at Sellafield over this recent past about whether the nuclear part of it has been cleared by the Construction Industrial Training Board. The CITB have gone in and won the case, because they have got a legal base on which they are operating their training programme. They are nationally agreed, and the Sector Skills Council is just an executive body; they are doing a good job within the limited powers they have got.
You have to look at what powers these boards have to insist that the national standards are adhered to. If you do not, that is where you are dealing with the symptoms and not the cause. The cause is the need to be able to move those national standards positively forward.
Q114 Mr Ward: Finally from me, on the issue of funding: does the AMRC benefit from any kind of funding as a result of the apprenticeship programme?
Professor Ridgway: We get some funding as part of the normal apprenticeship scheme from the Government, but nothing additional to that.
John Baragwanath: 16to-18.
Richard Caborn: I do not know whether some of the employers will say that some of the hoops they have to jump through, or boxes they have to tick, militate against what they are trying to do in terms of training. How some of these funding schemes are designed mean they do not always have the desired effect of lifting the skills base of the sector. There are bits about bureaucracy and ticking boxes rather than quality training.
John Baragwanath: Some of the go-ahead companies have questioned whether it is more worth their while accessing the Government funding or just doing it themselves. Obviously, they would not get as many apprentices through it doing it themselves, but there is a lot of bureaucracy surrounding it.
Chair: We are more or less on time. We will finish off with a little sneaky question from Brian Binley.
Q115 Mr Binley: Richard, I wonder if you like being on the other side of the table?
Richard Caborn: I used to do that job-I used to be in that chair where he is now. It is far better to be on this side of the table. Especially when my party is in opposition, I would rather be here doing something creative than bothering you guys in the House of Commons. I would rather be on this side of the table.
Chair: Can I thank you all? If you feel there is a question that should have been asked and was not and you would like to reply to, then please feel free to submit some written evidence. Similarly, if we feel in retrospect that we should have asked you a question that we did not, we will do so in writing. Thanks very much.
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Sharon Ward, Group HR Manager, Sheffield Forgemasters International Ltd, Alison Bettac, Group HR Director, Firth Rixson Ltd, and Richard Cook, Production and Personnel Director, AESSEAL plc, gave evidence.
Q116 Chair: I will repeat the welcome and, again, thank you for agreeing to speak to us. Again, could you introduce yourselves with your position in the companies that you represent? We will start with you, Alison.
Alison Bettac: I am Alison Bettac. I am Group HR Director for Firth Rixson in Sheffield.
Richard Cook: I am Richard Cook. I look after manufacturing and personnel for AESSEAL based in Rotherham.
Sharon Ward: I am Sharon Ward, Group HR Manager at Sheffield Forgemasters.
Q117 Chair: Thank you very much. Again, you don’t all need to answer every question. I suppose this is one you can all answer, but please make it brief: how do you recruit apprentices into your workforce? Can we start with you, Alison?
Alison Bettac: We start very early. We start promoting apprenticeships at Year 8 in schools and then we go through a work placement scheme local to this region, called Workwise. We find that enhances the promotion of apprenticeships in this region, because it talks about employability skills, it gives the kids a real, live work experience of engineering, and then we recruit from both the Workwise programme and the work that we do with our local schools in the community. So we start very early.
Richard Cook: We take a very similar approach to Firth Rixson in terms of engaging with schools early, increasingly so in the last three to five years. In addition, we work in partnership with a local training body; they do a bit of filtering for us for young people who are looking for apprenticeships. We also use all the normal levels, through the press and so on, to recruit.
Sharon Ward: Again, it is similar to the other companies. We work closely with the schools and colleges in the area. We take an awful lot of work experience pupils through to give them a good insight to the company and to the apprenticeship scheme. We mostly use Metskill for our recruitment. We advertise on our own website to encourage a wider net for recruitment, but we usually go through Metskill, and we do an assessment through them as well.
Q118 Chair: Have any of you used the National Apprenticeship Service website?
Alison Bettac: Yes. All our vacancies for apprentices go on the NAS website, and that is via our current apprenticeship provider.
Q119 Chair: So you put your vacancies on. Do you know if those that you recruit come via that communication?
Alison Bettac: Some of the recruits do, but because we have got such a local relationship with certain providers, we find that mostly they are taken direct from either the schools that we work with or the provider that we work with.
Richard Cook: Ditto for us.
Sharon Ward: I think Metskill also use the NAS to recruit, advertise and promote.
Q120 Chair: Right, if I can just move on: one of the main measures of the NAS is the number of apprenticeship starts. We have received mixed evidence on this. Do you think it is appropriate to measure the success of the NAS by the quantity of apprenticeships that it sells?
Alison Bettac: It would be more important to see completed apprenticeship numbers, because you could get an amount of drop-offs during that time. I would like to see numbers of successful apprentices completing the various schemes.
Q121 Chair: They also advertise that; I think we are up to 75%, which is a big improvement. What we are finding is that there has been a huge growth in apprenticeships in those aged over 25. Percentagewise, the fastest growth is in the over-60s: whatever the merits of that, it is fair to say it does not conform to the traditional perception of apprenticeship. Have you had experience of this? Do you recruit older people via the NAS?
Richard Cook: Personally from an AS perspective, we don’t have an age limit on apprenticeships-a lower or an upper end. What is more important than any quantity measure is the quality. The first panel spoke a lot about the relative quality of apprenticeships, and the dilution of the brand if, indeed, there is such a thing as the brand. Frankly, for someone to try to persuade me that after 14 weeks they can send a young person to me and describe them as having passed an NVQ Level 2 is laughable at best, and at 42 weeks to have NVQ Level 3 and be ready to start in the world of work is in a similar vein to me: it is just not realistic.
Q122 Chair: Certainly. Do you think that is true of just engineering or in general?
Richard Cook: I suspect it is the same generally, but that would be anecdotal. Certainly in my experience of engineering that is the case. We have 101 providers in this region that put plenty of bums on seats, but the quality of provision is appalling, frankly.
Q123 Chair: Do you think the fact that this happens damages the perception of apprenticeships and potentially the willingness of people to be recruited to your sort of apprenticeship?
Richard Cook: It is a twofold problem: firstly, there is a complete lack of understanding of what an apprenticeship is; secondly, for those who do understand, it devalues it in their mind. We have the worst of both worlds at the moment.
Q124 Ann McKechin: We have heard some talk earlier this morning about soft-skills and pre-apprenticeships to try to prepare people for the world of work. To what extent do you think that there is a role for the Government’s National Apprenticeship Service in that type of feature? Would that assist you as employers?
Sharon Ward: I would agree that a lot of the young people that come through are not ready; they do not understand the standards that we expect as an employer. We have a lot of teething problems with them in terms of simple things like turning up for work on time, reliability and that kind of thing. There is a role to play somewhere in setting the standards before they come into the workplace.
Q125 Ann McKechin: Richard and Alison: do you have any views on that? You have been critical about some of the standards.
Richard Cook: Very similar. The problem is we have a school system that is set up to teach our children to pass exams of varying relevance, when what we are trying to do is prepare them to earn themselves a living and have a stimulating and challenging career. It is difficult; we are finding with some of our latest intake that somebody is doing something right, because we have got some fantastic young people joining us with some of those life skills. Keith mentioned in the previous panel that increasingly we are dropping our barriers of five GCSEs and other arbitrary measures, and saying, "What are their characters like? What is their work ethic like? What are they likely to be like? Are they going to fit into our team?" That is the important thing for us.
Alison Bettac: Employability skills are critical for employers, certainly with the apprenticeship programmes that we run. We have talked about this for a long time now as a group of employers in this particular region, and the fact that we are ensuring that our UTC has employability skills on the agenda and on the curriculum. The NAS could do a lot of partnership working with schools to ensure that employability skills are on the curriculum. We are talking about even an employability qualification within the Workwise programme for kids in schools. Hopefully this region will be one of the first to deal with that.
Q126 Ann McKechin: Sharon, we had the pleasure of meeting some of your apprentices yesterday. We were all impressed by their commitment to the company. What is your experience of the quality of apprentices? Clearly you attract a lot of people from the local area who are keen to work in your company, and one or two of them mentioned that they had come in through work experience.
Sharon Ward: Yes.
Ann McKechin: What has been your experience over the last five years in terms of the quality of apprentices and issues that they bring?
Sharon Ward: We had some very good feedback on last year’s intake from our college provider, who said the calibre of the apprentices was the best that we had recruited over recent years. That was good and rewarding to hear. We did go through a stricter selection process last year. However, I am always mindful, in terms of the level of the GCSEs, not to be too exclusive. As Richard was saying earlier, we need artisans that will come in and be machinists; we do not want them all to be high fliers. They do have to have academic ability, but you need to have a good mix. With that in mind, to give that opportunity we went down to a D level last year.
Q127 Ann McKechin: But still overall you had a better result and outcome.
Sharon Ward: The calibre was certainly much better, yes.
Q128 Mr Binley: Can I quickly ask about literacy and numeracy, because we do get quite a lot of people telling us that literacy and numeracy is not anywhere near as good as you need it to be?
Sharon Ward: I would agree with that, yes.
Richard Cook: Generally true.
Q129 Mr Binley: Can I go on, Mr Cook, specifically to ask whether it is correct that your company does not use the Government frameworks?
Richard Cook: No, it does not.
Q130 Mr Binley: If so, could you tell us why not?
Richard Cook: For the reasons that have already been discussed in the first panel: we found them to be lacking in what we required. We are a machinistbased organisation. It is important to say that, for the first time this year, we have two apprentices starting with us in the workshops whose long-term aim is to join another part of our organisation: one the sales side and the other the internal commercial part. We find it much easier to tailor apprenticeships to suit the immediate needs of our business. We are a very growthorientated, agile business. Frameworks need to be just that: they need to be flexible, and they need to allow us to grow and develop our business. We do not find that in the frameworks that are available.
Q131 Mr Binley: Does that extend to FE colleges?
Richard Cook: Primarily, yes.
Q132 Mr Binley: What work does your firm get involved in regionally to support the skills level of the local workforce? Or do you not get involved with that either?
Richard Cook: Sorry, could you rephrase that?
Mr Binley: Do you get involved in the regional efforts to improve the skills level of the local workforce at all, or do you stay away from anything to do with what might loosely be called Government bodies?
Richard Cook: We have a very strong local employer base, including my colleagues here today. We have got ourselves together, we have looked at what we have needed and the shortfall in provision, and we have plugged most of those gaps ourselves. I have sat on various committees in terms of skills; for me, it is a national and, increasingly, international issue. If you are passionate about engineering, as an ex-apprentice-elitist although that may sound-I am keen to see it much higher on the agenda regionally, nationally and internationally.
Q133 Mr Binley: So your local experience has not put you off from being enthusiastic about ensuring things happen?
Richard Cook: Not at all, quite the contrary.
Q134 Mr Binley: I am pleased about that. Can I ask a final very quick question: at what level do you recruit your apprentices at, and what level do you normally train them to? Let me get an understanding of that.
Richard Cook: "All and any" is the honest answer to that. We have already had quite a lot of discussion around this, but for us we need people who want to be good programme setter operators, or just good in any other department in the business. One of the things we work hard with schools on is to make people understand we speak nine languages in our commercial department. Language is a key part of our business, as is IT, finance and various support functions.
If you look at the manufacturing part of our business, we need people who want to come in and do what I would classify as the old City & Guilds: be a craft apprentice, and be damn good at what you do, and have all of the great credentials we have spoken about-the soft issues. If you want to go through at your own leisure over five, 10, 15, or 20 years and end up with a PhD, that is good too. We will sponsor that person throughout-let us forget the debt, just for the moment, against a traditional route-and they will have years of invaluable industrial experience.
Q135 Mr Binley: I understand that is a similar case with you, because we saw that.
Sharon Ward: Absolutely, yes.
Alison Bettac: Absolutely, yes.
Q136 Mr Ward: What is Workwise, and who runs that?
Alison Bettac: That is a work placement scheme that was set up a couple of years ago by a consortium of employers who were fed up with having unstructured work placements in the workplace. We wanted to see, certainly in the engineering and manufacturing side, some more structure to that. We set up a programme, and Business & Education South Yorkshire ran it at the time, and we put a lot more emphasis on things like: employability-we put them through an induction, which includes an introduction to the world of work; communication self-respect; looking at the different values and everything. Then we put them through a structured work placement, which gives them a taste of every part of engineering within a company. A number of employers signed up to that, and it is still there today.
Q137 Mr Ward: How many schools are in partnership with that?
Alison Bettac: I am not sure how many schools signed up to it. I think at the moment there is probably about half a dozen in this region now, but since work placement is now not mandatory in schools for some strange reason, it just needs a little bit more promotion to get out there. Certainly there is an appetite for it out there from an employer’s perspective, because we know that it helps build character, skills, and gives the kids a good experience of what engineering and manufacturing is like.
Q138 Chair: How is it funded?
Alison Bettac: It is funded by a trust at the moment, I believe. I am not involved in the workings of it, but I believe it is funded by a trust. It was originally paid for by the local authority, but I do not believe that is the case any more.
Chair: It seems as if we might look on it as a model.
Q139 Julie Elliott: On entry levels again, some of you were saying you take GCSEs and others do not. If you are not taking GCSE as the requirement, how do you test people’s literacy and numeracy skills when they come in?
Sharon Ward: Through the Metskill assessment; that is what they include as part and parcel of the assessment.
Q140 Julie Elliott: Is that the same for you?
Alison Bettac: We have our own assessment methodologies that we use in-house.
Richard Cook: Our training provider does some screening for us, to ensure there is the necessary base level.
Q141 Julie Elliott: Alison, you said you used the NAS. Do the other two companies use it?
Sharon Ward: Via our provider-through Metskill, yes.
Richard Cook: Similarly.
Q142 Julie Elliott: What support, if any, do you get from the Government for upskilling your workforce?
Alison Bettac: As in financial?
Julie Elliott: Anything.
Alison Bettac: We get the 16-to-18 apprenticeships funded, but beyond that nothing.
Sharon Ward: It is the same for us.
Richard Cook: Ditto.
Q143 Paul Blomfield: We have explored the NAS from different angles, because I guess it is at the heart of what the Government is trying to do in terms of enhancing apprenticeships. A number of comments have been made, but if you were in the Government’s position or in our position, how would you judge what the NAS is doing and what would you be expecting it to do more effectively to promote apprenticeships and support you as employers?
Alison Bettac: They could certainly do more on the promotion within schools and the education system: that is where the challenge lies at the moment. The education system is so overrun with targets to get people into higher education and achieving that they forget about apprenticeship routes, and that is where the downgrading comes with regard to the apprenticeship brand. The NAS could do a lot more partnership working with schools in that respect, and certainly help more with SMEs.
This region is certainly a big SME supply chain region, and the constant comments that I hear from my supply chain as a large employer is, "We do not get any support with our apprentices that we take on. We do not know where to access them. We do not know what to do with them when we get them." I find myself as an employer helping some of my smaller companies, providing them with competencies to develop their training frameworks in-house.
We, as an employer, have gone back to the old EITB competencies, because we do not feel that the national framework and the technical certificates that they do currently on apprenticeships are enough. That is why we have reverted back to EITB in addition to the frameworks that we are using now. That is what we are providing to the SMEs that work with us.
Q144 Paul Blomfield: Any other thoughts? If not, I would be quite interested to pursue your point, Alison, about SMEs, because you are all of a scale as employers, with an experience in developing apprenticeships that kind of fit the old industrial terrain but not necessarily the new one. Across South Yorkshire, for example, there is something like 40,000 SMEs; if just one in four of them took on an apprentice, we would be transforming the youth employment landscape. The Federation of Small Businesses and the British Chambers of Commerce have identified a whole series of barriers for small to medium-sized enterprise in taking on apprentices. How do you think, from your experience, we could break those barriers down?
Richard Cook: Isn’t it going back to the fundamental issue of what is an apprenticeship and what value does it represent? The problem is that you are to some degree preaching to the converted here; we cannot survive unless we are building the resources we need for the future, because nobody is going to do it on our behalf. The SMEs have a different view of the world. They are perhaps on more of a day-to-day survival expedition then they are thinking about then next 10, 20, 30 years of growth. It is about making people understand the value that an apprentice can bring to your business, both now and in the future, and what an apprenticeship is. At the moment, as we have defined this morning, nobody really knows what that is, do they?
Q145 Paul Blomfield: When I talk to SMEs in my consistency in Sheffield, there is a real appetite for passing on skills and for taking on apprentices, but in a small workplace it becomes much more high risk. You guys can take on 70 apprentices, half a dozen can fail, and that is not a problem; it becomes much more critical in an SME. Because your relationship with a lot of the small enterprises is quite important, do you have any thoughts on how we could point the Government in a direction that would help SMEs to take on apprentices and take the risk out of the process?
Alison Bettac: The support structure has to be there for SMEs to be able to take on apprentices. We have talked about this as a group of employers: what would be ideal for SMEs to be able to take on apprentices? We have talked about providing a support package to SMEs that includes what competencies you train on, how you train them, how you observe that training taking place, and how you monitor that. The other one is, because there is a time constraint with SMEs in how much time they can provide training for their apprentices, is there a possibility to share apprentices between SMEs, so do two days at one, two days at another, etc. Is that a solution to it?
The support framework has to be there, and it has to be different for SMEs, because they are not like large companies, they don’t have that time, and they don’t have the skills and knowledge half the time. The other thing we have talked about in this region is maybe an SME forum for apprenticeships, so they can swap best practice with each other or larger employers can come in and share best practice with the SMEs. We are looking at putting together a project for that course through Semta, under the employer ownership fund. We are meeting this afternoon to discuss the project.
Q146 Mr Binley: Can I interject, just to give you a feel? BAE employ 30,000 people directly and 140,000 in their supply chain, almost all of them in SMEs. You are right; they are struggling to stay alive. Survival is the name of the game with SMEs. Can companies like yours give SMEs more help in that respect?
Alison Bettac: Absolutely. We can look at the old ATA model, which is the over-recruiting on apprentices, but large companies are not going to do that without support from the Government, and I am talking financial support. Certainly in manufacturing and engineering we are on a tight budget all the time, so we have to be careful about the decisions that we make on this. We would certainly be interested in over-recruiting and ensuring that apprentices have that proper structured framework of training, but we would like to see help on a financial scale.
Richard Cook: To contextualise our side: we are not taking on 75 to 80 apprentices a year; we are just looking to increase to maybe 12 apprentices per year for the next two or three years. We do not have a lot of latitude for failure either in our business. What we are struggling with, even at our size, is the diluting effect that young people have. You can imagine that, for an SME with 15 to 20 staff bringing in one or two apprentices, somebody has got to come off their job to work with them and mentor those apprentices, otherwise there is no value in the apprenticeship.
We are having that same difficulty now. We know we have to grow our own talent base, and we enjoy that-it is stimulating and it challenges our business-but even we are finding we are at the limit at the moment. With our training provider we are looking at a two-year scheme, starting maybe a cohort of 12 each year for the next three years, so that we can bring them in at a slightly more advanced level where they dilute our existing workforce less, but also to have a pool. When I came through my apprenticeship, it was pre-the YTS scheme. I was sponsored by the local County Council, and I worked with another 140 apprentices in an apprentice school, some of whom were sponsored by an employer with a guaranteed position at the end, and some of whom, like myself, were just sponsored on a speculative basis.
That is what is important to SMEs: to be able to go and pick somebody that is not completely school-fresh, has some broadbased experience. My apprenticeship was very broadbased, so I was not a specialist in any particular area. Unfortunately the funding was not available for me to continue my third year, but by the time I joined an employer I had done two years and I was of some use from day one-I hit the ground jogging at least, rather than running. If you ask most SMEs, they do not want the "what do I do with this 16-year-old on the first day who yesterday was at school?" That is a daunting thought for any employer.
Q147 Mr Ward: I think you have covered many points by telling us the work that you are doing, but if you could summarise: the Government did recognise the need for improving the quality through various measures, looking at training providers, monitoring, and so on. To summarise and bring it all together: what needs to happen to improve the quality of apprenticeships?
Richard Cook: Rewind to 1964. We have got the model; why reinvent the wheel? The EITB model was astounding. I am speaking purely from a manufacturing perspective now: it is the framework I followed, it was broadbased, it was a really good foundation, and I was of relative use, having completed two years of an apprenticeship, to my first employer-much more so than I would be under the existing scheme.
Q148 Mr Ward: All agree?
Sharon Ward: Absolutely, yes.
Q149 Mr Ward: On the higher level apprenticeships, are you an advocate of the Government encouraging higher level apprenticeships? We have seen the increase in the numbers, which Brian referred to: a good thing?
Richard Cook: I still come back to the question of whether we know what an apprenticeship is, so I do not know what the definition of a higher level apprenticeship is. Our guys come in and they are streamed almost naturally over a period of time, and those that want to go on to the ultimate aim of perhaps a higher degree, that is great, but I do not think there should be a distinction necessarily.
Sharon Ward: We are the same as Richard in Forgemasters: they can come through as a craft apprentice. We have got two apprentices that have ended up in senior management positions; one is a director, one is an MD now of the company, so there is a lot of scope. They can go as far as they want. If they want to do a degree and they are able to, then we would support that. It has to be more flexible.
Alison Bettac: We have a number of higher apprenticeships in Firth Rixson, and we tend to use it to develop those that have aspirations for leadership or those that are going down a specialist pathway, but we found it extremely useful. We will continue using that framework.
Q150 Julie Elliott: Can I come in on the back of that? Do you think the term "higher apprentice" is the right term, or do you think that we should just classify apprentices as reaching a certain level and then call it something else?
Sharon Ward: It used to be "craft apprentice" and "technical apprentice", and I quite like that. I think the "higher apprentice" is a bit elitist in a way.
Q151 Chair: Can I just talk about funding? The Government has said it will prioritise investment in apprenticeships where the impact and returns are greatest. From a manufacturing perspective, do you agree with your approach and would you say maybe that the returns are greatest with manufacturing?
Richard Cook: Yes.
Chair: I suppose that is a bit of a no-brainer.
Sharon Ward: We work in manufacturing, don’t we?
Richard Cook: Just talking to the MD of Firth Rixson last night, with growth of 30%, and we grew 20% last year-I don’t know about Forgemasters-that is pretty impressive considering manufacturing is a dying industry in the UK apparently. Yes, we can quite easily justify the return on investment.
Alison Bettac: The only thing that is holding my business back is the lack of skills in this region. We will certainly be investing in apprenticeships in the future. The UK itself is looking to manufacturing for wealthcreation, and so it is certainly justified as far as I am concerned.
Q152 Chair: I can see a statistical problem, but possibly it is not just a statistical problem. The huge increase in apprenticeships has come in the service sector; manufacturing is relatively low down the list of the increase in apprenticeships. The National Audit Office said that the value added currently is about £18 for every £1 invested. In theory, and on the base of those figures, you could make a hypothetical argument that the current investment, most of it in service industries, is bringing a very good return for the Government, and therefore they should be justified in doing it. I appreciate you will not have all the statistical evidence, but in your experience do you think that is a valid argument?
Sharon Ward: I don’t think any one sector should be excluded from offering apprenticeships, but it depends on where the country wants to go in terms of manufacturing or service. There has been a lot of discussion about Germany, and they are so successful because they have a lot of manufacturing in their country. That is a bigger question.
Q153 Mr Ward: You cannot prioritise everything, by definition. It is not enough to say something is important, but that is not prioritising. This is part of a proclaimed national agenda to rebalance the economy, and it is you lot that are supposed to be a priority. Do you feel as if you are a priority?
Richard Cook: Not remotely; not in real terms. There is a lot said about it, but that is fairly typical in my experience.
Sharon Ward: I cannot see why the funding only goes to age 19. We have the 24-years limit, and I feel that a lot of young people are very unsure about what they want to do. There is a level of maturity, and over 20 they are much better placed to understand perhaps where they want to go. That 24-years limit needs to go.
Q154 Paul Blomfield: Can I just come in on that, Chair? I think that is really interesting Sharon, because you largely recruit at Forgemasters, very successfully, your apprentices below 24.
Sharon Ward: Yes. It is very successful and we are very proud of what we do, and it works very well in our business. But why are people over 24 not given the opportunity to do that? There is the lack of funding, and, as Alison said, in manufacturing we are under a lot of tight constraints in terms of our money and our costs.
Q155 Paul Blomfield: If that did change, would you change your recruitment model?
Sharon Ward: Yes, I believe we would.
Q156 Chair: You partly anticipated my question, which was that apprentices 16 to 18 get 100% funded by the Government, and 19 to 24, 50%. Do you feel that is correct? From what you have said, I gather not.
Sharon Ward: No.
Richard Cook: On the contrary, I believe there is legislation against ageism in the UK.
Q157 Chair: That is a very interesting subject, but we have not got time to have that debate today. If you were compiling a model of funding that you would think would be most effective in terms of targeting either age groups or whatever for funding, what would you do?
Sharon Ward: I think the 24 barrier-or perceived barrier-should go, and maybe you could put an age in of, say, 30.
Alison Bettac: They should remove the age: an apprenticeship is an apprenticeship, whether you are 16 or 45. Everybody should have equal opportunity, whatever age they are, to be able to go through that experience.
Q158 Paul Blomfield: Just very quickly on that point: most people raise their eyebrows when they see that there has been an eightfold increase in the number of apprentices over the age of 60. Now, going back to the point about the brand, how do you draw a line between an apprenticeship, which I understand as a route into a skillset and a career, and upskilling-continued professional development-in terms of in-house training, which, however valuable, is not what I would understand as an apprenticeship? Would you?
Richard Cook: If I can refer to a colleague of mine who has just gone off as a longterm engineer to do a law degree, I don’t feel that is in any way inappropriate or unusual. I can understand why people have a perception of apprenticeships generally revolving around young people, but that is only a perception that has developed over the years. I agree; there should be no age limits, and the more we can promote apprenticeships for people who change careers the better. Frankly, if we talk about return on investment, which we did a few moments ago, I wonder how the relative return from the service industry is sustainable for the next 20 or 30 years without any continued wealth creation.
Frankly, what worries me about the whole skills agenda that we are discussing is that we are seeing a renaissance in this area of manufacturing, and I hope that continues and spreads throughout the UK, but there is only one place that high value-added manufacturing work is going to go if we don’t sort out our skills agenda. It will be the other areas in Europe that are capable of taking on that niche, high value-added engineering, because it is not China or India-that might not be a popular statement; it will be Germany, Italy, France, and we will be left behind.
Q159 Mr Binley: Can I make two comments?
Chair: Can you make them quickly? We are almost at the end.
Mr Binley: Very quickly. I went into the House of Commons at 63, so I am going to talk to you later. However, let’s not be too derisory about the service sector, recognising that retail is a massive earner internationally; law is a massive earner internationally. I don’t think we want to compartmentalise too much.
Richard Cook: It certainly was not meant in any sort of derogatory sense. I am simply drawing a comparison between a return on investment today and the sustainability of that performance. Manufacturing, despite setbacks of decades now, has still come out strongly and will continue to do so for the next 50 years.
Q160 Chair: To conclude on the point-and I am pretty certain I know the answer here; it is not difficult to anticipate-some organisations like the Royal Aeronautical Society have told us that it does not matter what age an apprentice is; it costs business the same to get them to a standard. Would you agree with that approach?
Richard Cook: I would not personally, simply because, by default, younger people are traditionally cheaper to employ in those early years. The wage expectations of a 16-year-old versus somebody in their 40s are going to be somewhat different. I don’t think it is a showstopper for us, but it would be more expensive to put a more senior person through an apprenticeship.
Q161 Chair: One of the counterpoints is that, particularly if you are trying to recruit people without a history of working that are over 24, the fact that they may have gone for so many years without that sort of work experience means they may be more expensive. Do you think that is a fair comment? Do you ever find yourself in this situation?
Alison Bettac: I don’t know, because we have been using the Get Britain Working scheme recently with the eight-week work placements, and we have turned those into permanent jobs on the placements that we have had. We have found there is a stigma around the longterm unemployed. We have found, with the work placements that we have had, that stigma is not true, and they are simply people who have fallen on unfortunate times and not had the opportunity to get back into work. We have not had to spend any more money on these people to get them up to a standard…
Q162 Chair: What about NEETs who may never have worked? Have you ever had that experience?
Alison Bettac: We have not had experience of NEETs.
Q163 Chair: The Government is very anxious to do it, quite rightly, I may say. That probably concludes our questions to you. Can I thank you very much? No doubt you heard what I said to the previous panel: if you feel there are any additional points you would like to make to questions that we either asked or should have asked, please feel free to do so and we may, of course, write to you to follow up one or two things. Thank you very much.
Examination of Witness
Witness: Peter Flinn, Specialist in high value manufacturing, Technology Strategy Board, gave evidence.
Q164 Chair: Thank you, can I welcome you here? Would you like to introduce yourself?
Peter Flinn: Good morning. My name is Peter Flinn. I work for the Technology Strategy Board, where I am involved in the programme management for the setting up of the new technology innovation centres, so-called Catapult centres.
Q165 Chair: Thanks. I was going to start with that one: the website says that the TSB is involved in Catapult centres.
Peter Flinn: Correct.
Q166 Chair: These, I am told, bridge the gap between universities and businesses. Could you expand on that?
Peter Flinn: Yes. The universities have the capability to take technology to a certain level. For example, if that piece of ironmongery in the corner was a new process, then typically a university could produce that in quantities of one or two at the most over quite a long period of time, with a high level of skill, and quite expensively. For a company like RollsRoyce, who would want to make several hundred if not thousands of those per year, quite a lot of effort has to go into productionising a putative process. The aim of the Catapult centres is to take technology that has developed to a certain level, and therefore has a degree of certainty about it, and develop it beyond that point to one where industry can pick it up quite quickly and efficiently.
Q167 Chair: You did not bring that along as a teaching aid?
Peter Flinn: I did not, no. It happened to be sitting there in the corner.
Q168 Julie Elliott: Who are these centres designed to benefit?
Peter Flinn: Industry, basically. They are designed to benefit the UK economy, but through industry. The whole premise of them is that they are designed for industry and industry led.
Q169 Julie Elliott: What level of training do participants get at the centres?
Peter Flinn: The work is developing technology. Technology is as much about people as it is about numbers, graphs, and so on. In this particular middle ground of applied development, the benefit is as much in the skills and knowledge of the people who are participating as it is in the results themselves. You find centres like this, which is part of the manufacturing capital, where there is a lot of interchange of people: people coming in on secondment or going out on secondment from here. It is not training perhaps in the structured, formal sense that we have been talking about this morning, but development of people’s knowhow and skills is a vital and essential part of these centres.
Q170 Julie Elliott: What agerange of people are involved in the centres?
Peter Flinn: I set up one operating near Coventry. The youngest person who got into the activity was around the 20 mark, and the oldest was 70, to my knowledge. The centre of gravity tends to be people who have done a first degree and are involved in further research and maybe working towards a master’s or a PhD.
Q171 Ann McKechin: Peter, I wonder if you could tell me what role the TSB plays in terms of apprenticeships, in terms of perhaps trying to set the standards, or the modules, or criteria?
Peter Flinn: Virtually none. We see these Catapult centres being a good venue for developing a modest number of apprentices, so a facility like this has the capacity-as Keith was saying earlier-to do half a dozen people a year, that sort of order. We would expect all centres to work in this field of training young people, but the quantities will be quite modest. The Technology Strategy Board would look externally for the standards that are applied. Firstly, I think it is important that standards are rigorous, are known, and are national, as opposed to local, standards. At the present moment, the Technology Strategy Board would look outside for those standards.
Q172 Paul Blomfield: Following on from what you said a moment ago, Peter, and evidence from earlier witnesses, I am interested in how we square national standards. Do you have any thoughts on the point that was made earlier, and has been made to us by the Forum of Private Business, that we need more flexibility in apprenticeship frameworks?
Peter Flinn: There is a genuine dilemma there, but it is extremely important that apprenticeships represent a known and national standard. It is how you create frameworks; I was interested to hear that there seems to be a reversion back to the EITB standard, which I remember quite well from 30odd years ago. It sounds as though we have already addressed this issue at some point in the past, and if we dig it out we still have the material to do it.
There is a genuinely good point that different companies need people that suit their needs. You will find a company like RollsRoyce makes something like 1,500 air engines in a year, whereas Nissan-who are in the news at the moment-make thousands, if not millions, of cars. The nature of engineering and manufacturing varies from one business to another, but nonetheless, the principles of quality management, for example, or manufacturing process control, and so on, have to be understood by everyone who wants to be a professional in the field.
Q173 Paul Blomfield: It is interesting hearing the case being made to return to the EITB approach. What are your thoughts on that case?
Peter Flinn: I had lost touch in some ways with apprenticeships. I was very aware of the fact that, within UK manufacturing, we had a very good flow of apprentices, up to a point some 20 or 30 years ago. We have genuinely lost our way, and the modern apprenticeships that came in 10 or 15 years ago are to a very high standard, but there are not enough of them. Manufacturing employs 2.6 million people in this country; if you said that the average working life is 40 years, that is 60,000-odd people a year coming in and going out, putting aside any other factors. Some of the numbers we have talked about today are quite modest in that context. I am not sure I have quite answered your question.
Q174 Paul Blomfield: That is helpful. It is what we can learn from the old EITB model that we can apply to the demands that we have now.
Peter Flinn: That model and that structure in principle is one we could well look at. I would suspect that, if we looked at the detailed content, there would be rather more emphasis on manual skills than we would like today, and not enough emphasis on manufacturing systems, the management of manufacturing and broader issues of that sort, but that is a question of balance, rather than detail.
Q175 Paul Blomfield: And the approach is right?
Peter Flinn: Yes.
Q176 Chair: Before I move on, there is this talk about quality, flexibility and so on; from the previous panels that we have had, there is an emerging consensus that it is the quality of the course that is absolutely essential. That throws up the problem of monitoring and supervising to ensure that any course that is funded is of high quality. What is your perspective on how we can do that while minimising the bureaucracy of that monitoring and supervision?
Peter Flinn: There are several ways of doing that. The professional institutions, the engineering institutions, do work of this nature, accrediting degree courses in engineering. One approach would be to do something similar to that for apprenticeships. Some relatively light touch accrediting and monitoring process is essential, but that does not necessarily mean you need to have vast armies of people doing it. For the professional association ones, a lot of it is done by volunteers. In principle there are ways in which these things can be done efficiently.
Q177 Mr Binley: Two quick questions, Peter. First, does the Technology Strategy Board benefit from any Government funding for its role with apprenticeships?
Peter Flinn: Not directly. The funding we receive primarily goes into research projects. Elements of those projects are to do with training. Some of the money goes into buying materials, and some of it goes into paying people’s salaries and wages. There is an indirect effect, and on a large proportion of projects there is probably some element of training involved. Therefore, I am sure that some TSB money will find its way into apprentice activities. For example, this centre here is part of the manufacturing capital; we are likely to be awarding somewhere in the order of £30 million to £35 million a year to that network of seven centres. I am sure that some of that money will find its way into either facilities or activities in which apprentices would be involved.
Q178 Mr Binley: Should we be incentivising organisations like the TSB to take on apprentices?
Peter Flinn: We as an organisation would not.
Q179 Mr Binley: I know that, but I am talking about your ability to place and oversee: is there a role there?
Peter Flinn: There is definitely a role in creating an environment that is useful for apprentices. These sorts of centres, whether in manufacturing or in some of the other topics, are looking at leading-edge technology, the equipment itself is very good, they are very vibrant environments, so they are very good ones for developing young people. I think if part of the remit was to do so-well, it is already. I am hesitating, because I am not quite sure how the mechanism might work.
Q180 Mr Binley: Nor am I. That is why I wanted your advice.
Peter Flinn: You have to think fairly deeply about these mechanisms, because quite often they come back to bite you in a way that you did not expect. It is worth looking at.
Q181 Mr Binley: Would you think and come back to us?
Peter Flinn: Yes, I will, certainly.
Q182 Mr Ward: In terms of the TSB, from that perspective-the businesses that you are familiar with-how should the Government be engaging with employers about training and apprenticeships?
Peter Flinn: The natural way of doing it would be through the various employer associations and trade associations, and organisations like the CBI, but I guess apprenticeships are handled very much on a local basis. So if the Government can find its way into local organisations, that would also be quite helpful.
Q183 Mr Ward: Can I ask you the same question as earlier: do you feel as if you are being treated as if you are special?
Peter Flinn: In engineering or manufacturing?
Q184 Mr Ward: In manufacturing.
Peter Flinn: I have only worked for the TSB for a relatively short period of time. I worked for the best part of 40 years in manufacturing, and I would say it was never particularly well understood or treated very specially at all by Government. The drivers and the important factors of manufacturing are not particularly well understood, and therefore it is quite difficult for any particular industry to be treated specially or favourably if it is not particularly well understood.
Mr Ward: That is sad.
Q185 Chair: I was going to say; it is very interesting. Did you want to follow it up, David?
Peter Flinn: I am happy to talk further about it.
Q186 Mr Ward: Maybe you could put that in some sort of written answer to us, because this is what we desperately need to know. As I keep saying, you are allegedly the special people that are going to reform and rebalance the economy: the manufacturing and the engineering sector. It is now getting on for two years since the general election, in which the cry was, "We need to do this." It is quite sad if you don’t feel special.
Peter Flinn: Yes. Manufacturing is a longterm game, and the countries that are successful in it invest long term. In my view, they invest in four areas: capital facilities, people and skills, technology, and business systems and processes. Today’s discussion is very much about the investment in people, and particularly when you look at countries like Germany and Japan, who have bucked the trend by being successful in manufacturing despite being high-wage economies, investment in skills and people is something they do quite naturally. The Government would do well to understand what drives successful manufacturing and make sure that its activities support that.
I support the work you are doing on apprenticeships, which is concurrent with the skills activity. Through the Technology Strategy Board we are involved in promoting technology in companies, which is another of the components that I think is important, but I would gladly put this point in writing to you.
Q187 Chair: All the mood music is: "Yes, we believe in manufacturing; we have to rebalance the economy," and so on. I don’t want to put you on the spot-well, not too much-but do you feel it is being delivered on the ground? You have highlighted a number of policy strands that need to be developed; do you think that currently they are likely to deliver on this agenda?
Peter Flinn: You can see movement in all of them. The question is whether the movement is fast enough. Ultimately businesses drive the success of manufacturing, but the more they can be assisted in terms of developing people, skills, capital investment and the technology and so on, the better. I would suggest that the Government look at the quantum of the support they are giving, and ask itself the question: "In the context of an industry that turns over £150 billion to £160 billion a year, is there sufficient activity going on?"
Chair: Thank you. That is a very interesting and thoughtful response. It was short, but very helpful indeed. Thank you very much. As I say, if you wish to develop any of the points that you made, we would be very grateful to have that in writing. Thank you.
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Kyle Johnson, Chris Parkin, Lewis Nicholson, Luke Shaw and Chloe Jones, apprentices, gave evidence.
Q188 Chair: Good afternoon, everybody, and thank you very much for agreeing to come to answer our questions. I was at Forgemasters yesterday and I made the mistake of asking the apprentices there if they wanted to ask any questions of us, and I quite regretted it. You may have seen James Murdoch and one or two others getting the treatment from the Select Committee. Can I reassure you that our approach today will be rather gentler than that? We do appreciate you making the effort to attend here, and we really want, if you like, the apprentices’ insight into our deliberations.
I will repeat what I said to the other panels. We will throw up a question. Don’t feel that you all have to answer every question, otherwise we could be here until teatime. Some of the questions may be specific to one of you, but I am going to start with a fairly general one that you can answer fairly briefly. I will then throw it open to the panel to ask a range of questions.
So to start off, what factors did you consider when you were thinking about becoming an apprentice? Who would like to answer that first? Lewis, your body was twitching in such a way that you looked as if you were about to answer, so we will start off with you.
Lewis Nicholson: I didn’t to start with. I went to do my ALevels, and that is when I realised it wasn’t for me and I wanted to look into something different. The only other thing I knew about were apprenticeships, and that is when I started to look into what apprenticeships were, what they were about, and what areas they go into. The main reason I went into the manufacturing one was, because, when the job opened for this, there were a lot of big names like RollsRoyce and Boeing-I work for AMRC-and that stood out for me. I looked into those companies; I looked into what might be more secure job-wise, building trade apprenticeships and stuff like that. I don’t know. I was lucky, I think-I just went into it; I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, to be honest.
Q189 Chair: Where did you look to get information?
Lewis Nicholson: Through my college, doing my ALevels at Hillsborough, there were connections and there were places you could go to to get information. I saw it in a local newspaper at the start; that is when I saw it.
Q190 Chair: You did get some advice from your tutors?
Lewis Nicholson: Yes.
Q191 Mr Ward: Luke, you had three offers at university, I understand, and obviously decided to go another route. What was the thinking behind that?
Luke Shaw: Well, I got my places at university, but I realised then that I could have done my four years at university but still be back in the same position four years later without a job and no experience, so I decided I wanted to do an apprenticeship. I went to a sixth form to do my ALevels, and the minute I said, "I want to do an apprenticeship," they turned their nose up. I didn’t even get invited to the awards ceremony. It looked bad that they had got 180 going to university and an odd few that were doing other things, and to me that is wrong.
Chair: That is very interesting indeed.
Q192 Paul Blomfield: Chris, you were nodding your head when Luke made that point. Was that your experience too?
Chris Parkin: I found that when I approached my college when I did my ALevels and said, "I want to do something else other than university," the amount of literature and help available was limited. Everybody is pushing towards university, so everybody completes a UCAS form, and everybody thinks that university is this great thing, and everybody should go there, which just isn’t the case.
My personal experience is very similar to Luke’s; I got a place at university and knew I wanted to get a degree, but I didn’t understand what would make me different from the 20 other candidates that completed exactly the same degree as me with the same grade. Jobs are not available for all of us, so I wanted to make myself something better than them, so I wanted to do a degree parttime, while in fulltime work.
Q193 Ann McKechin: Chloe, I think you and Kyle did apprenticeship-type training at your school, so you had quite a different experience to the others. Could you let us know what was different and how that really helped?
Chloe Jones: When I was at school, when it came to doing your options, I had the choice of doing a young apprenticeship programme. At the start of Year 10 I was at work one day, college one day, and then school the rest of the week. By the time I had finished school I had got my first qualification in engineering.
Kyle Johnson: Whereas I took applied engineering at school, because we didn’t have the apprenticeship option at our school, which involved a whole day of engineering. Straight after that I did my work experience with the company that I am at now, at Newburgh. As soon as I finished school, I applied for the apprenticeship at Newburgh, because I liked the practical aspect and learning skills at the same time.
Q194 Julie Elliott: So engineering at your schools was something that was talked about and an option. For the other three, were apprenticeships or engineering mentioned before you got to 16 at school? Was it an option? Was it explained?
Luke Shaw: I did design technology at ALevel, and I was the only person on my course. There were plenty doing English and Media Studies, but there was no real interest in the engineering subjects.
Q195 Julie Elliott: Were single sciences offered at your schools?
Kyle Johnson: Yes. Single and triple science were offered at my school. Also, because it was specialist engineering, we had multiple options for engineering, like the product design diploma and the applied engineering, which I took, but not an apprenticeship option.
Q196 Ann McKechin: How many of you took physics?
Luke Shaw: I took physics.
Lewis Nicholson: At GCSE?
Ann McKechin: Any?
Lewis Nicholson: Yes.
Kyle Johnson: Yes.
Q197 Mr Binley: I want to put three statements together, and see if you can make sense of them. First of all you are aspiring to a degree by working your way through it in a different way, and you hope to graduate in 18 months. You are clearly all aspiring people, but you heard from the employers when we talked about those NEETs, people not in education, employment or in training, and there are about a million of them-it is a really big problem-that they did not seemingly have any contact or anything to say about that. What would you say about them? What is the bit that you have that is missing with them? Is it just opportunity or is there something more in your experience?
Chris Parkin: I would say it is very much opportunity. I think I am quite fortunate that I gained the job that I did. If I was to go back and try to get another job, I would not particularly know where to look or where to go to get a specific engineering apprenticeship. I don’t think the information is available, especially in schools and colleges.
Q198 Mr Binley: Are you saying it is just lucky that you are where you are then, and you could be one of those million?
Chris Parkin: Definitely. I have friends who are in that position.
Q199 Mr Binley: Who are just as inspired and just as aspiring as you?
Chris Parkin: Possibly not, no. It is quite scary; it is quite daunting at the age of 18 or 16 to turn round and say, "I’m going to work and I’m going to approach these companies myself and try to get a job."
Q200 Mr Binley: What about the other four? What would you say to the question?
Luke Shaw: Mine was purely through sending bucketloads of CVs to companies all over, and there were not many that replied. I would say it was pot luck that I got an interview at Firth Rixson and they took me on.
Q201 Mr Binley: Isn’t it funny how hard work, sending all of those applications, equates to luck? Is there a connection there?
Luke Shaw: There could be.
Mr Binley: I think there could be too.
Q202 Chair: Could I follow this up, because this is very interesting? You have obviously been quite resourceful in obtaining an apprenticeship, and there may be a lot of young people who would like an apprenticeship, but perhaps lack the selfconfidence, the drive and so on, to go that extra mile, which you obviously have done. Do you think there is a role for people like yourself to go back into school and give people like that the sort of advice, mentoring, and maybe that little extra bit of confidence to do the sort of thing that you did? Do you think that would work?
Chloe Jones: At Newburgh we have had several opportunities to go back to our old schools and other schools to talk about it: what path we took and things like that.
Q203 Chair: There was an interesting point; was it you, Luke, who said that if you wanted to do an apprenticeship, in effect the school didn’t want to know?
Luke Shaw: Yes.
Q204 Chair: Do you think you might not be welcome if you did that? You were not, shall we say, promoting the school agenda?
Luke Shaw: It wasn’t the fact that I was doing an apprenticeship; it was it looked bad on their end-of-year results, because they had four or five people who were not going to university. They did not put "apprenticeship"; they just said "other", and that is what they are putting down.
Mr Binley: It is elitism.
Chair: This is very important to us, because we have got to make recommendations, and it is not just about apprenticeship provision; it is about changing, if you like, the culture and the way that schools are measured in terms of their success. Teachers will deliver to what is a Government agenda.
Q205 Mr Binley: Would you name and shame the school?
Luke Shaw: Penistone Grammar School.
Q206 Mr Ward: In terms of judging schools there is also an informal process in place, because the sixth form tutors will compete with other sixth form tutors in other schools on the percentage that they have got to go on to university, in my experience. Out of interest, have any of you got parents who were in either manufacturing or engineering?
Chris Parkin: Yes.
Mr Ward: Just one.
Chair: That is quite surprising in a way, but it is good in a way. Do any other Members of the Committee want to ask anything on this area? I want to talk about the National Apprenticeship Service in a moment.
Q207 Julie Elliott: It is sort of in this area. If you look at the group of friends that you were close to when you were 16, when you were starting to make choices, have any of them gone into this line of work or have they done other things? What kind of things have people done?
Lewis Nicholson: There’s only a few. I had never even seen a lathe until I started the course. I knew about apprenticeships, but not about manufacturing ones. I only knew the building trade ones; those are the only ones I really knew about.
Luke Shaw: A lot of my friends either went on to study college courses or Alevels. The people that weren’t expected to achieve were pushed into jobs at 16 from school, but of the people that went on to do Alevels, 99% of them went on to university, and they are trying to get jobs now, and struggling.
Chris Parkin: Majority university. They are either still there or a few have got decent jobs. A lot did degrees, found they could not get jobs and then did master’s, and they are currently at that stage.
Kyle Johnson: The same as the others-a lot of my friends have gone to college or sixth form, but four of my closest friends that I spent time with knew I had an apprenticeship, and I said how good it was, and they have gone into an apprenticeship themselves.
Chloe Jones: I am the same. All of my friends have gone on to college. I don’t think any of them have got proper jobs or a career ahead of them, or anything definite.
Q208 Paul Blomfield: Coming back to Luke, you said you did design technology at Alevel.
Luke Shaw: Yes.
Q209 Paul Blomfield: And the course was not available in the school.
Luke Shaw: The course was available, but it was only me that took the course.
Q210 Paul Blomfield: How did they make it available for one person?
Luke Shaw: The year after, it was scrapped.
Q211 Paul Blomfield: I wondered whether they had gone into partnership with Barnsley College or something in order to provide the course. The point is, the year after, it was scrapped. How far is that driven by school expectations, how far it is driven by student demand, and how far is the problem partly the image of engineering as a career?
Luke Shaw: Engineering as a career is still not pushed by career advisers at schools. It is still seen as second rate: you get your hands mucky and it’s a second-class job, but that is not the case. That is the problem-it needs altering.
Q212 Paul Blomfield: There is a job to do in terms of making people understand what is involved in modern engineering.
Luke Shaw: Yes
Q213 Paul Blomfield: Do you agree with that, Lewis?
Lewis Nicholson: Yes. I was involved in taking apprentices on this year. When they all came in for the interviews and we asked them what they thought they would be doing, they didn’t know; they didn’t really understand themselves what they were getting themselves into. Even the people who were applying for the apprenticeships didn’t know what it entailed. They hadn’t been informed.
Q214 Mr Binley: Would it be helpful if we made all teachers work for two years in what I might loosely call "the real world". Might that be helpful?
Q215 Chair: Can I just ask you about, if you like, Government provision of information? Have you heard of the National Apprenticeship Service?
Luke Shaw: I am aware that it is a framework of NVQs and technical certificates, but that is as far as it goes.
Q216 Chair: Would it be fair to say you have got very limited awareness?
Luke Shaw: Yes.
Q217 Chair: That is interesting. My next question was: what is your impression of it? I don’t know if you want to have a go at that, Luke?
Luke Shaw: It is good as far as an advanced apprenticeship, but they need to not just focus on Level 2s and 3s but progressing through to degrees, maybe with funding from the Government to help employers out. Once you get past Level 3, it is down to the employer to decide if they can afford to carry on your education; it is a big emphasis on them.
Q218 Chair: Yes. Kyle and Chloe, you are doing what they call bespoke apprenticeships, as opposed to something that has a framework determined by the Government. Can you tell us what made you decide on your particular apprenticeship?
Kyle Johnson: I applied for the work experience while at school, and while I was there they gave me an insight into what we would do if I was to take the apprenticeship. They broke it down and I liked what I saw, because we were doing the practical skills in the workshop and also getting the NVQ Level 2 and 3, and the VRQ, which we have just passed, at Brinsworth Training.
Chloe Jones: I am very similar really, because when I was at school doing work I worked at Forgemasters, Newburgh and Torres Pumps-all totally different industries, as opposed to precision and things like that. I liked the way Newburgh worked; as Kyle said, it was in the workshop doing your work and getting a lot of profile things done. There is not really a timeframe on it. They just set you what you have got to do, and you get it done in your own time, whether it is quicker or if you take a bit longer or whatever. They are really helpful.
Q219 Ann McKechin: Can I just ask a general question, not only to Chloe but to everyone on the panel: how many of your female friends are taking any type of apprenticeships?
Chloe Jones: Well, there is another girl at our place.
Q220 Ann McKechin: How many apprentices have you got?
Chloe Jones: There are four in our year, and there are about seven in the year above. Out of all my friends, I do not think half of them even know what engineering is.
Luke Shaw: Last year our company had around 20 apprentices and two of them were female. One of them works with me as an electrician. She has done really well with it.
Q221 Ann McKechin: There is still the perception that it is very much for boys?
Chloe Jones: Yes, definitely.
Q222 Paul Blomfield: Is that the case at AMRC, Lewis?
Lewis Nicholson: We have got two girls at the AMRC: one has just come out of her apprenticeship and is in the drawing and design side; and we have got one who is in her first year. Other than that, I don’t know of any girls.
Q223 Julie Elliott: How many is that out of?
Lewis Nicholson: I was the first apprentice, which was six years ago, and we have taken on every year; one has just finished her apprenticeship-she might be 18, 19-and one is 16, 17-she has just started.
Q224 Mr Binley: Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Running the company? You have thought through the apprenticeship situation. I wonder whether you are going to think about where you go when you finish with that, whether that is enough to deal with at the moment, or whether you are thinking about where you might want to be in 10 years’ time?
Chloe Jones: Well, after I have done my NVQ Level 3 I am going into inspection, getting trained up in there, and then hopefully I will be able to move on to bigger and better things eventually.
Q225 Mr Binley: Anyone else? Or do you just want to deal with what you have got at the moment?
Luke Shaw: I finished the Level 3 apprenticeship and I have now moved on to a Level 4, which is an NVQ in Business Management, and a foundation degree and hopefully a degree after that. I am sure everybody else wants to move on similarly.
Q226 Chair: Do you see yourself as, if you like, reaching degree standard in whichever particular subject area you are concentrating on?
Kyle Johnson: I am hopefully going to university, either business studies or an engineering degree, after I have passed my NVQ, but we shall see.
Chris Parkin: I am probably 18 months away from a BEng, and possibly a master’s after, but I am not too sure.
Q227 Julie Elliott: On a daytoday basis, what do you do as apprentices? Is it all hands on? Is it in a classroom?
Chloe Jones: At Newburgh we have got our own apprentice cell, and we have got a series of phase tests that we have to complete. We will do a phase test, and then do a write-up on it, cross-reference it to all our portfolio work, but at the same time we might be doing jobs from the shop floor-one-off things that need doing quickly. It is a mix of everything day to day. It is not like one day you do this, one day you do the next. It is just whatever you need to do; you just get on with it.
Lewis Nicholson: I have been here six years now. I am still learning; I do not think I will ever stop until I get to maybe a particular thing that I am going to stay and keep doing. In the first few years we were in the manual workshops, we were getting the general basic idea of things and moving on to the CSE machines, having a go at drawing things, designing things, making things. It has never really stopped. I am now on the big machines, machinists’ centres, involved with projects, and things like that. You can take it as far as you want to go as long as the company is behind you, which they have been. I have finished my HNC. I think the degree would take me two years fulltime, or four or five parttime. I am comfortable currently, but I could always think about going back into education.
Q228 Chair: Are you all confident that you are going to have a job after you have finished your qualification?
Kyle Johnson: Yes.
Lewis Nicholson: Hopefully.
Luke Shaw: Yes.
Chair: That is reassuring.
Q229 Paul Blomfield: I just wanted to ask a general question. You have all talked glowingly about the experience of apprenticeships, and I am sure that is absolutely right, but in every kind of experience there is a downside too. Is there anything that you would identify from your experience that could have made it better?
Chris Parkin: In the route that I took to a degree, I have had to fight every time that I have gone to a different college or university to get on to the course. They have wanted me to do lengthy three- to four-year courses when, realistically, the syllabus can be taught in two. I found it a real struggle to get on the courses, because they are not interested in the teaching aspect and trying to get students through as quick as possible; they are interested in lengthening it out for as many years as possible. It has been a real struggle for me to try to get a degree in five years after completing Alevels.
Q230 Mr Binley: Chris, could you write down your experience in that respect and let us have that, because that seems to me to be a vital point. We have been talking about schools not being overly workplacefriendly in terms of helping you, but if the universities and the colleges are-I guess it is universities rather than colleges-being a bit obstructive, we have got a real problem. If any of you equally have experiences of that kind, please do the same. It will remain confidential; I don’t want to cause you any personal problems, but it is important information.
Q231 Chair: Do you have any idea why the colleges were obstructive?
Chris Parkin: The reason they gave to me was that I didn’t do maths and physics at Alevel. They wanted me to complete an ONC before an HNC. Equally, the university wanted me to do two more years of a foundation degree, because I did not have an HND. It was frustrating.
Q232 Julie Elliott: So they are not taking into account your practical skills and experience as opposed to an academic qualification?
Chris Parkin: Not at all, but I understand that, because an HND and a degree are not practical qualifications; it is all theory. It has been hard, because I haven’t got maths and science Alevels, but I am more than able to do it. I have come out with good grades, and I would not say I am any less well off than people who have taken the traditional route.
Q233 Chair: Would it be fair to say-I don’t want to put words into your mouth-that the range of courses they had available were not sufficiently flexible to meet your personal needs?
Chris Parkin: Definitely, yes.
Q234 Ann McKechin: When you were at school, to what extent did people talk about the importance of trying to do maths and physics? These are fundamentals to engineering, so I wondered to what extent people said that taking those particular subjects was important to try to widen the range of jobs, even if you had not decided what you might do.
Chloe Jones: At my school they used to nag quite a lot, saying how important it was for us to get good grades. Obviously every single job you would ever get involves maths, and so my school did drill it into our heads that we needed to get good grades on it.
Kyle Johnson: It was the same as Chloe. They were more pushy towards the maths. They were pushing us towards the physics and science aspects in engineering, but not as much as the maths.
Q235 Ann McKechin: Right, okay. Lewis and Luke, any advice at school about this at all?
Lewis Nicholson: Obviously maths, science and English are the main subjects, aren’t they? They always push you towards them. But for ALevels, there was no advice whether to go on to anything like that and take it any further.
Q236 Chair: You are all obviously very successful apprentices. Have you had any apprentice colleagues who have dropped out at all? Have you come across this?
Chloe Jones: Not personally, but somebody I know: there was a girl working in quite a big engineering firm, and she had to stop because she could not physically handle it-the weights, and tightening and loosening things, etc. She had to drop out because of that.
Chair: You would have thought that they could design a course that removed that particular problem; that is interesting.
Q237 Mr Binley: If you were to tell us one thing that each of you thought was important in improving the situation and making it easier, and perhaps giving more kudos to the sort of track you followed, what would that one thing be?
Luke Shaw: You need to show people the outcome, because when you start an apprenticeship, the money is not attractive. A lot of people think, "I can earn that on an apprenticeship, but I can earn twice as much getting a normal job." They cannot see what they will gain from the apprenticeship that will benefit them in the future. They seem to be short sighted. The apprenticeship is not pushed enough to say, "Look, you will not earn much for a few years, but this is what you will have achieved and what you will have afterwards." That is not pushed enough.
Q238 Chair: That is interesting; are your peers who are not taking apprenticeships going out and getting better paid jobs?
Chloe Jones: No. Most people I know are at college, probably not even getting paid or just in a parttime job on nothing compared with what we are on.
Mr Binley: It is a fair point.
Q239 Julie Elliott: Did you in your companies get paid the £95 a week, or did you get paid a proper rate for the job?
Luke Shaw: At my company it was a proper rate for the job.
Lewis Nicholson: Mine were.
Chloe Jones: We got £95 while we were at Brinsworth Training, and when we came in-house we got paid.
Q240 Julie Elliott: How long afterwards was that?
Kyle Johnson: About three weeks.
Chloe Jones: It was not long after at all.
Q241 Mr Ward: Kyle, you went to an engineering specialist school. What did it do? What was different about it?
Kyle Johnson: Well we had lathes and CNC millers actually fitted inside the school, and programmes, like the CAD/CAM, installed on the computers. From my experience I had the skills and experience I needed to go into the job I am in now, so it helped me a lot.
Q242 Mr Ward: Did it have links with employers-with engineering companies?
Kyle Johnson: Yes, because we did a yearly trip to the company I am in now, and we went to Forgemasters and Firth Rixson, so they have got a wide link of connections. I don’t know whether they need to emphasise that you can do apprenticeships there; it is just the trips that they were emphasising.
Q243 Paul Blomfield: Lewis, you said you were aware of construction apprenticeships but not engineering apprenticeships. How was that? Why were you aware of construction apprenticeships?
Lewis Nicholson: From what I can remember, that is just it. People either did their ALevels or they went into construction. I never remember talking about manufacturing. But it is so wide as well; it is not just machining, is it? There is more to it than just machining: there is the design and the drawing side of things. There is all sorts, and that is why I cannot see why women, or anybody, cannot go into it. You might not be on the shop floor doing that; you might be in an office. I don’t think people fully understand what is available; I don’t think they do at all.
Chair: I think probably that is almost the perfect line to end the session on: "I don’t think people know what is available in terms of the work that we are doing." Can I thank you on behalf of the Committee? It has been really illuminating to get your perspective of it. I am sure not only are we very grateful for your contribution but we would like to wish you the very best of luck, and would welcome you perhaps influencing other people in the same line. Thank you very much indeed for your contribution today, and if there is anything that you would like to write to us afterwards, we would be very grateful to receive it.