University is not the only career path
Debbie Mellor, MD of Keighley Labs and one of relatively few female chief executives in the engineering industry, is concerned that today’s young men and women, and their families, believe that university is the only career path open to them:
According to a recent report, an estimated 55% of this year’s university graduates will fail to land a job that requires a degree, becoming either under-employed or unemployed. So with increased course fees and students running up debts of up to £27,000, many young people will now be wondering whether it’s worthwhile going to university,
Vocational training, such as an engineering apprenticeship, still leads to a qualification, and provides hands-on learning that suits many people better and results in a real job, with established career prospects.
Apprenticeships is also an area of education and training that has not been affected by budget cuts, with the Government pledging to create 75,000 new places over the next three years and skills minister, John Hayes, even considering the option of being able to study apprenticeships at university, to improve the status of vocational training
With an apprenticeship or a BTEC diploma course, you learn while you earn and have the opportunity to study for a foundation degree or higher qualification, as your career progresses.
However, a recent study found that 56% of teachers said their knowledge of apprenticeships is poor. This means that schools are pushing their students toward university education, because they are not aware of vocational training opportunities.
The Government’s recent decision to downgrade the diploma in engineering from its current value of five GCSE’s to just one, also undermines industry efforts to create a new generation of apprentices and technicians.
Meanwhile more effort needs to be put into developing appropriate technical training and promoting the engineering profession more effectively.
When a new production facility is up and running and the company can present a more modern face to young visitors, Keighley Labs hopes to continue arranging familiarisation trips for schools across the region, aiming particularly at 13-14 year olds who have yet to commit fully to university.
In this way, the company hopes to put forward the learning and career prospects of apprenticeships to undecided youngsters.
Work-based training is a viable option for young people to consider. Getting into employment earlier, not running up student debts and earning proper money, means young apprentices definitely have an edge. They also have an opportunity to go on and gain a diploma or degree, at the expense of the employer.
Since we work with advanced industries like aerospace, automotive, energy, defence and petrochemicals, Keighley Labs and the heat treatment sector generally need the skilled technicians, metallurgists and managers of tomorrow and can offer properly-defined career paths.
Nowadays, apprenticeships are not about training people to do a single job for life, they are about unlocking their full personal potential. After all, I started as an office junior and progressed to become managing director.