• POLICY AND INTELLIGENCE ... Work with us in our drive to make the engineering and advanced manufacturing sectors a UK priority
  • CAREERS PATHWAYS ... Picture Yourself Here: explore the opportunities in the UK's most advanced sectors from Apprenticeships to professional development
  • STANDARDS, QUALIFICATIONS AND FRAMEWORKS ... Your one stop shop for essential resources and information for delivering engineering, science and technology skills
  • SKILLS SOLUTIONS ... Maximise your people, skills and productivity: how Semta can help
  • SEMTA APPRENTICESHIP SERVICE ... A one-stop employer solution for recruiting, developing and mentoring talented apprentices

Skills Matter Policy Blog

Welcome to our new weekly Skills Matter blog, designed to keep you up to date with the latest skills policy developments.

The blog is written by our policy specialist Stephen Howse. 


About Stephen Howse - Semta Policy Co-ordinator

Stephen-HowseStephen has been with Semta since January 2015. With a background in political campaigns and media, Stephen has a range of experience to utilise in understanding and shaping skills policy for the benefit of the advanced manufacturing and engineering sector (AME). He is active meeting with employers and stakeholders to discuss their experiences and skills policy needs, he would welcome any further employer engagement via phone and email.

Stephen’s current areas of particular interest and knowledge are the apprenticeship reforms and the introduction of the apprenticeship levy, Industry 4.0, diversity and high-level STEM skills shortages – his regular ‘Skills Matter’ policy blogs will touch upon all of these topics and more from across the AME spectrum.

Please do feel free to contact Stephen for anything skills and policy related either via email policy@semta.org.uk or call 0845 643 9001.


 

When the apprenticeship levy policy was being drawn up, Semta, along with employers from the advanced manufacturing and engineering sector we represent, were quite clear with the government that it would be good for the sector if funds unspent by levy-paying engineering firms could be transferred to others within the sector. Now, with the government launching an online survey to ask employers directly whether they would like to be able to transfer funds to supply chains, we’ve got a golden opportunity to restate that message and have a direct influence on how the levy policy develops. But we only have four more days to take it - time is of the essence here.

Without levy-paying engineering employers being able to transfer some of their funds to their suppliers to support their skills needs, there is a risk to the sector that we lose a chunk of the money we are paying into the pot. So if we want to keep that money within the sector, we must use our collective voice to ask for it and to show that the demand is there for it. Remember – we have already had one major success as a sector in getting the ‘use it or lose it’ period for levy funds extended from 18 months to 24. That was a real win for engineering, given that our apprenticeships tend to last for three years as a minimum.

The last time Semta published a blog piece on the outcome of the general election – which was written in first draft at 5.30am on Friday morning – much was unclear. Now, following a weekend of backroom chatter and the appointment (in most cases reappointment) of a Cabinet by the Prime Minister, we know more about what the government will look like but less about what it actually wants to do with regard to policy.

The Conservatives’ negotiations with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland are ongoing at the time of writing, and the Queen’s Speech has been delayed pending the agreement that the two parties come to. Much has already been written about the DUP’s views on issues of social policy, Brexit and welfare - all areas of disagreement with the Conservative leadership. Rather less has been written about the party’s views in other areas - including the education, skills and industrial policy areas which are of such importance to Semta and to the sector we represent.

Well, as of the time of writing (8am on June 9th) it is quite clear that the polls and the pundits have largely been wrong, and the UK is heading back towards a hung Parliament after just two years of majority government. So what of the stability in skills policy that CEO Ann Watson called for in her election preview last month?

Although Parliament will be hung, the range of potential governments seems narrow. The Conservatives, as it stands, will be the largest party. Labour will not have enough seats to overtake the Conservatives even with the support of the Scottish National Party – and would struggle, given English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) is in force, to implement its skills policy programme anyway as it only applies to England and Scottish MPs would therefore be unable to vote on it.

When people think of energy security, they tend to think in terms of the supply of resources needed to generate energy – be it oil, gas, coal, biomass or nuclear material. But there’s one resource without which we will not be able to generate any energy at all, and that is people.

With the proportion of energy we get from coal and oil dwindling, and with renewable technologies still in the development stage, the government has staked our medium-term energy future on a new generation of nuclear power facilities. But the nuclear energy sector, like most engineering sectors, is facing a severe medium-term skills crisis. By 2025, it’s projected that 70% of the existing workforce will have reached retirement age (UKCES).

One casualty of the snap general election has been the All Party Parliamentary Group on Apprenticeships, which has sadly had to cancel two meetings which had been scheduled to take place after Parliament is dissolved for the general election. However, last night’s meeting did go ahead – and I was delighted to be able to attend, as the focus of the discussion was an issue of the utmost importance to the advanced manufacturing and engineering sector: diversity and equality.

Consider this: more than half of the population is female, yet just 3% of engineering apprenticeship completions are by females. Just 4% of engineering apprentices are from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background despite 13% of the UK population being from one. A fifth of the UK population has a disability but only a tenth of apprentices do. One attendee of last night’s meeting who has been working with BAME communities on apprenticeships for a long time told us that BAME applicants have to apply for three times as many apprenticeships as their white peers to get a place.

At Semta, we've written previously on the looming Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and the tidal wave of skills change it is set to unleash on the advanced manufacturing and engineering sector. At the recent 4IR All Party Parliamentary Group launch, I was able to see first hand just how much interest and excitement it's generating – not just amongst employers and those 'in the know' in industry, but amongst Parliamentarians and those who have the power and influence to shape UK public policy.

It was especially exciting to be able to see up close some of the brilliant things being done by innovative UK firms at the leading edge of the wave, who had brought along their wares to exhibit to a House of Commons Terrace Pavilion as jam-packed with people as I have ever seen it. Companies like the additive manufacturer Dream 3D, whose exhibition demonstrating their 3D printers attracted much interest, are bringing the future to us – they are pioneering technology which is set to become commonplace across not just our sector but across the whole economy in years to come.

And that's the thing about the Fourth Industrial Revolution – we are going to need a strong engineering and digital skills strategy to be embedded within the developing Industrial Strategy, because every single sector and the majority of occupations are going to have a digital element in future. This revolution is going to create new jobs and new sectors the likes of which we cannot even begin to dream of today. Never mind the lurid predictions of the rise of the robots taking away ten million jobs – the Fourth Industrial Revolution, if we as an advanced manufacturing and engineering sector can get it right, will make us even stronger and higher value than we are today.

At Semta, we’ve written previously on the looming Fourth Industrial Revolution and the tidal wave of skills change it is set to unleash on the advanced manufacturing and engineering sector. At Monday’s 4IR All Party Parliamentary Group launch, I was able to see first hand just how much interest and excitement it’s generating – not just amongst employers and those ‘in the know’ in industry, but amongst Parliamentarians and those who have the power and influence to shape UK public policy.

It was especially exciting to be able to see up close some of the brilliant things being done by innovative UK firms at the leading edge of the wave, who had brought along their wares to exhibit to a House of Commons Terrace Pavilion as jam-packed with people as I have ever seen it. Companies like the additive manufacturer Dream 3D, whose exhibition demonstrating their 3D printers attracted much interest, are bringing the future to us – they are pioneering technology which is set to become commonplace across not just our sector but across the whole economy in years to come.

Wednesday, 08 March 2017 00:00

Budget - Our Predictions

Written by

The Budget is coming up, and one of the lead promises has been £500m each year to be spent on delivering the fifteen new technical education pathways. It was pleasing to see technical education making the pages of national newspapers at the weekend, and even more pleasing to read in the letters pages so many words of support.

£500m sounds like a lot of money, but we need to remember that this comes in the context of a total schools budget of over £40bn per year and a total education spend of over £85bn. £500m a year of new money represents roughly 0.58% of the current budget – and comes following years of squeezes being applied to the budgets of the further education colleges which will now be invited to become the Institutes of Technology (IoTs) which will translate all of this additional funding into actual training. The government has so far announced just £170m to be allocated to the creation and development of IoTs – compare that with the up to £320m that is set to be ploughed into new grammar schools.

This is going to be a huge year in the ever-changing and ever-exciting world of skills policy. A raft of new governance arrangements are being finalised (including the new Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education), the apprenticeship levy is set to be introduced in April, new employer-designed standards are constantly being developed to replace the old frameworks, the first Institutes of Technology are set to open and new technical education routes are being drawn up to elevate it beyond its traditional status as a “Cinderella” service.

In this context, it’s important for people like me to remember why all of these reforms are being introduced – not to keep us and politicians in Westminster in work, but to boost the life chances and future employment opportunities of those who take apprenticeships and enrol in further and higher education. If the government hits its target for apprenticeship starts, that will mean three million lives potentially being transformed and three million people taking that first step on the ladder to a brighter future.

We need to train up a lot of workers with science, engineering and technology skills if we’re going to be able to overcome the skills crisis that’s facing our sector. The exact amount is up for debate – some say it’s 800,000, others say it’s over a million – but there’s general agreement that we need more of them.

That’s why the release of the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) data today is so welcome. Over a quarter of young people in England say they would consider a career in science, while nearly three quarters think that science teaching will help them to get a job when they leave school – significantly higher than the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average for developed nations.

Page 1 of 2

Apprenticeship Levy 190x60

Skills Vision 190x60

Whos Who 190x60

Contact Us 190x60