Students across the region are this month celebrating as record A-Level pass rates are announced – especially in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects which have seen an increase in pass rates for the fifth year running. However, despite this, manufacturing and engineering industries are facing an ongoing skills-gap, as fewer young people enter the profession. So why is this?
To many, university is seen as the only choice to secure a lucrative career and well-paid job, however, there are other options too. Construction apprenticeships are a fantastic route into industry, and despite often only being considered for 16-18 year olds, they are in fact offered for apprentices who are 19 or above, providing opportunity for young people to gain hands-on training and great career progression. And, without the £9,000 yearly university tuition, they can be much more cost-effective too.
The myth that a university education always leaves you better off also needs addressing. While undoubtedly, for those studying vocational degrees, that might be the case, but many students end up finishing their degrees thousands of pounds in debt, disillusioned, and confused about where to take their career. But worse than that, in many cases they lack practical job experience, something the majority of employers require, meaning the hard work is only just beginning.
Our sector can also suffer something of an image problem, which could go some way to explain this lack of interest from young people. First and foremost, it’s not considered a ‘fashionable’ career choice, like media or publishing, though can in fact can offer much greater rewards financially in the long-term. The onus also needs to lie on employers, who need to do more to attract young people into their respective professions and nurture grass-roots talent. There is some fantastic, innovative and exciting work being carried out in the manufacturing and construction sector all across our region, but we need to become better at telling people about it.
Here at Ploughcroft, we have recognised the need to bring young people into our business, and to address this, have launched what is the UK’s first Eco-Roof apprenticeship scheme. The two-year course will offer a mix of on-the-job training and classroom-based learning which will cover traditional roofing, as well as a wide range of cutting-edge, energy-efficient construction techniques required to meet the needs of this fast-growing eco construction sector.
So, for those whose results didn’t quite get them the university place they were hoping for, or for anyone looking at embarking on a career from the ground up, then an apprenticeship could be the way to go. And for those companies in the manufacturing and engineering sectors, then launch an apprenticeship scheme before the skills-gap becomes a reality.