Local MP, Gordon Henderson, is pressing the new coalition government to not forget the needs of local manufacturers when allocating funds for the extra apprenticeship places it has promised.
The Government has pledged £775 million to fund 50,000 new apprenticeship places, focussed on small and medium enterprises. This is part of an intiative to get Britain working again by finding ways to support the creation of apprenticeships, internships, work pairings, and college and workplace training places.
Whilst welcoming the announcement, Mr Henderson urged ministers to consider fully funding NVQ Level 3 apprentices to ensure that enough skilled technicians and craftsmen are available once the economy picks up.
In a speech he is to make to Parliament, Mr Henderson said: “I very much hope that some of the money promised for apprenticeships will be set aside to help companies train more apprentices to NVQ Level 3. And boy do they need help!
“One of the problems is that currently employers can recoup only the training costs associated with apprentices and not the salaries of their unskilled new recruits. In the current economic climate many manufacturing simply companies cannot afford to take on apprentices, particularly at the higher level. We need to start thinking ahead. We need to help those companies get through the difficult times by subsiding the salaries of higher level apprentices.
“In my own constituency of Sittingbourne and Sheppey we have the only steel works in the South of England. Thamesteel has excellent training facilities and turns out highly skilled technicians. But like many other manufacturing companies it is suffering from the economic downturn and can no longer afford to take on as many apprentices as it would like, even though they will need skilled technicians once the economic situation improves.
“Now it is a sad fact that many of those who reach an NVQ Level 2 are not able to find employment, nor can they get onto an NVQ Level 3 course. However, the experience of Thamesteel is that all their NVQ Level 3 graduates find permanent employment, because they are highly sought after by other local companies who recognise the quality of their training.
“But that training is at risk because of the lack of proper funding. In Germany there is a comparable steel works to Thamesteel which operates an apprentice scheme fully funded by the state, including salaries.
“That steel plant trains up to three times more engineering apprentices than they actually require. On completion of their apprenticeship those fully qualified technicians and craftsmen are snapped up by other local small and medium sized businesses which do not have their own training facilities.
“Is it any wonder that Germany is the industrial power house of Europe? If we are really serious about building a high skilled economy in our country wouldn’t investing in NVQ Level 3 apprentices, in the same way that the Germans do, be a way of achieving that goal?”