In today’s industrial climate, it’s more important than ever to make sure that our education system gives young people the skills and knowledge they need to get jobs; and give employers the skilled workforce they need in those jobs.
Up until relatively recently, the era of apprenticeships was largely regarded as a relic of history! Somewhere along the line our politicians decided to economize and scale education. Given the time-intensive and intimate nature of apprenticeships, they sought to train more people at once within a streamlined curriculum. And as we moved more and more towards hands-on practical learning into the classroom, we compromised the intense hands-on knowledge that happened in the workshop. We traded experiential learning for a more standardized, but less potent education.
Increasingly, technology is at the heart of everything we do, and is integral to the success of our economy, but there is a shortage of once abundant practical skills across the UK workforce.
Skilled job creation and career development is an incredibly important part of our industry.
Quite rightly new technology apprenticeships have been recognised as a vehicle for graduates to access emerging technologies, but it has also been highlighted that British companies should simultaneously be addressing the shortage of legacy skills and realise the importance of continuing to invest in tailored apprenticeship schemes to develop much reduced practical skills, across all industries, but especially in the construction sector.
Hyde based PG Fabrications Ltd is a company that believes in investing. Not only in their own business, but in the future of the UK steel fabrication industry. That’s why they took on a number of young apprentices during the year, to work alongside experienced craftsmen to work on several vital local projects
Growth through experiential learning
Adam Chalmers, Skills Development Coach with the Growth Company, at Tameside College, outlined the apprenticeship pathway that one apprentice successfully embarked on with the company.
“Keenan Karim initially signed up to a level 3 advanced apprenticeship with the Growth Company in January 2016. Since then he has been working at PG Fabrications whilst attending Tameside College one day a week to complete his level 2 in fabrication and welding and is now nearing the completion of level 3 City & Guilds and by working alongside experienced craftsmen at PG Fabrications, he is gaining the skills required and providing the evidence for his NVQ in the workplace where he is putting his skills into practice. Keenan is also undertaking Maths, English and ICT lessons to ensure he is well equipped to take him forward in his future career.
PG Fabrications Managing Director, Pete Garcia explained, that the combination of experienced colleagues, who have finely honed their skills over many years, and apprentices with raw talent who are eager to learn, means we have an increasingly diverse workforce, essential given the continuously evolving nature of our sector.
Pete added, “It was also significant that many of our most experienced colleagues expressed a desire to pass on the skills and expertise they had gained over the years to younger members of staff who were just starting out in theirs.”
If companies don’t take steps to fill these skills gaps, they could find themselves with serious issues when their current staff move on or retire.
Peter went on to say, “The valuable relationship between local colleges, local authorities and ourselves has helped the company to ensure our workforce has the skills and approved systems to help move their various projects forward. Our aim is to prepare our apprentices for a meaningful and productive career in whatever aspect of the metal industry they choose.”
Education through experience is pivotal when on your path to your dream job.
“Working closely with time served, fully qualified engineers on actual domestic, industrial and large local authority projects have been essential in achieving this, and enables us to meet growing local needs.”
Keenan, who is currently working on a large gate and railing program for a local authority explained how the company, together with his course tutors, provided him with on-the-job experience, in welding and exposure to many aspects of the steel fabricating industry in a structured a totally hands-on training program. He went on to say that ultimately his ambition is to become a competent steel fabricator with the prospect of progressing to fully skilled in all aspects of working in metal construction.
Pete Garcia finally remarked, “It’s hugely fulfilling to see these young people learning and developing, and to see how each individual brings their own distinct qualities to the tasks we set. Knowing that we are actively contributing to tackling the skills shortage within our industry by training apprentices to become technically skilled steel fabricators of the future, encouraging them to think creatively and develop their skills alongside highly qualified and experienced engineers, makes me very proud.”
“With so many short and long-term benefits to hiring apprentices, maybe it’s time for you hire one and realise the advantages for your own company.”