Semta's Chief Executive Ann Watson shares her views on the latest news, policy, issues and events of interest to the engineering and advanced manufacturing sector. 


Thursday, 14 July 2016 00:00

The High Value of Apprenticeships

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shutterstock 165341867I was delighted today to address a Westminster Business Forum event on High Value Manufacturing in the UK and the next steps for investment, innovation and competitiveness. I focused in my speech on how the sector can face up to the challenge of high-level STEM skills shortages by making the best use of the apprenticeship levy all employers with a paybill of over £3 million a year will from April 2017 will have to pay. The sector has a long and proud tradition of apprenticeships - Semta's Chairman, Allan Cook CBE, started his working life as an apprentice engineer.

With the recent referendum result and the introduction of the non-EU worker levy of £1,000 per head, employers will have to look to the UK to provide the skills needed to ensure that engineering and manufacturing continue to thrive. If employers cannot find a supply of individuals to fill vacancies from the existing pool of workers, they will instead have to grow their own. The apprenticeship levy will provide an opportunity to do just that - employers will be paying it on any paybill above £3 million and, as it will then operate on a "use it or lose it" basis, they will have a strong incentive to make the very best use of the apprenticeship vouchers they get back.

Apprenticeships can be at all levels; we now have Degree Apprenticeships and Semta has been involved in the development of a Master Apprenticeship. These higher-level apprenticeships could be hugely valuable in supporting and encouraging the attainment of high level STEM skills in the UK, and as the apprenticeship standards underpinning them are employer designed employers can have confidence that they will meet their needs. They could kill two birds with one stone, helping employers to make the best of their levy and enabling them to fill skills shortage vacancies with workers who have exactly the right skills (including those 'soft' skills employers across the sector consistently complain their young recruits lack) - we know from UKCES research that there is no overall shortage of high level STEM skills, but there are pockets of vacancies across the sector which apprenticeships, as they are by law tied to a specific job role, could help to fill.

Most importantly, if we boost the numbers of these high-level apprenticeships on offer we will be providing high-quality, industry valued and respected opportunities to the next generation of engineers, enabling our best and brightest young people to get qualified at the highest levels and to gain real work experience without incurring the debt of their peers who go on to study traditional taught degrees. My advice to employers from across the sector who have problems in filling skilled vacancies is to take advantage of this opportunity and grow your own.

If you would like any support with guiding you through recruiting an apprentice or advice on the apprenticeship levy please contact the Semta Apprenticeship Service on 0845 643 9001 or email or visit

Read 1998 times Last modified on Thursday, 14 July 2016 13:56