Five years ago, New Electronics reported on WorldSkills International. Organised by WorldSkills, a body that brings together industry, government, organisations, and institutions to promote skills education and training for young people, it was intended to promote awareness of the importance of apprenticeships and was the first time this event had ever been held in the UK.
Has the work of bodies like WorldSkills helped to address the shortage of talent that exists in the UK when it comes to the electronics industry?
“Unfortunately, no,” according to Phil Mayo, managing director of Premier EDA Solutions, who is a supporter of WorldSkills. Even though interest in apprenticeships is growing, they still lack the visibility necessary for greater industrial sponsorship. “Either the potential apprentices have no proper knowledge of the range of opportunities out there or companies just aren’t picking them up,” he suggests.
“I have met most of the 250 to 300 people that train with the WorldSkills programme every year,” Mayo said. “As an employer, I would probably take them all if I could because they are bright and they are capable. While apprentices might be lacking in experience, you can work with that.”
Mayo thinks companies need to be more proactive when it comes to looking for apprentices: “You can’t not know apprentices exist these days, you know that they are there. The apprenticeship levy is a big issue for business. But where does a company go to get them? How does it engage? What does it need to do? These are still questions companies frequently ask.”
The government has pledged to put in place the ‘Post-16 skills plan’ recommended by the Independent Panel for Technical Education’s report which looks to simplify the current system so that technical education is provided through 15 routes.
Lord Sainsbury, chair of the panel, said: “We have a serious shortage of technicians in industry at a time when more than 400,000 16 to 24 year olds are unemployed.”
The programmes of study, as well as the required skills and standards, for each of the 15 technical routes will be shaped and defined by employer panel discussions, led by engineers and administered by the independent Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.
Nick Boles, until recently the government’s skills minister and who published the ‘Post-16 skills plan’, said: “While Britain has all the ingredients needed to compete with other skilled nations, we must create a technical education system that can harness that talent. This cannot be the government’s job alone; we must work with employers and post-16 providers to unlock the potential in this country.”