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Revisiting Apprenticeships – the LEEA view

Being a specialised sector requiring engineers to have particular knowledge, The Lifting Industry is particularly suited to apprenticeships says Dr Ross Moloney, CEO of the Lifting Equipment Engineers Association (LEEA), which is now exploring the possibility of developing apprenticeships for the sector.

Revisiting Apprenticeships – the LEEA view

22-05-2018

Being a specialised sector requiring engineers to have particular knowledge, The Lifting Industry is particularly suited to apprenticeships says Dr Ross Moloney, CEO of the Lifting Equipment Engineers Association (LEEA), which is now exploring the possibility of developing apprenticeships for the sector.

April 2018 marks the anniversary of the Apprenticeship Levy.  So far the data tells a sad story, but it is surely too early to see this a policy failure.  Civil Servants know that the first year of any change to funding entitlement is always beset with troubles and strife.  Consequently, whilst the headline figures are poor, in some cases very poor, we should be careful to consider the differences between the baby and the bath water.

As of the beginning of April there has been a significant decrease in the numbers of Apprentices in England.  59% fewer started in the quarter to November.  Analysis by the Open University found that businesses paid £1.39bn into the levy but drew down just £108m for training, suggesting that for many employers the levy wasn’t about changing behaviour in relation to training staff, rather it was just another tax, which should be paid and then grumbled about.

There have been numerous commentators explaining why the policy hasn’t so far had brilliant returns.  Some have talked about the lack of appetite for yearlong apprenticeships. Others have mentioned the impracticality of having staff in training courses for a day a week.  The long-standing issue of finding the right calibre of candidate to begin and complete an apprenticeship of course gets a mention.

So here are my brief thoughts on the issue.

For me an apprenticeship is a route to become a master technician.  It is the pathway to progress potentially from little or no industry knowledge right up to the level where you can work independently at an expert level.  When we remember this, an apprenticeship has immense value.  When we forget this, an apprenticeship becomes too broad and therefore too general a qualification. It still has value of course, but it doesn’t get you to that master level of specialism.

This is my point I think.  Apprenticeships have to be about specialism and speciality.  When I’ve twisted my knee and I need an arthroscope to clean it out, I want a specialist doing the work.  I understand that all surgeons are trained in the same basics, but I want a knee specialist working on my knee.  Likewise, I’ll want to see a heart surgeon for my heart and a dentist for my teeth.

It’s an accepted model that specialisms begin with the same basics, but to be an expert, you have to learn the intricacies and the details.

This is my challenge with Apprenticeships.  An engineer, is not an engineer, is not an engineer.  Of course, many have similar basic skills, but they are specialist people doing specialist roles.  Which means that an apprenticeship has to correspond to the detail of the role. 

LEEA are beginning to explore the possibility of working with government agencies to develop apprenticeships for our industry.  In our experience, our industry is a specialised one requiring our engineers to have particular knowledge; it is exactly this need, which over the years has created the appetite and demand for many of the LEEA courses. 

We’ll make sure our membership is updated on progress on our apprenticeship work.

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