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. 


Tuesday, 13 December 2016 00:00

A Review of the 2016 Skills Landscape and What’s to Come in 2017…

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It's been such a busy year - and if you were worried 2017 would be less exciting, don't be. It's going to be another year of rapid policy development and change, and at Semta we will be working hard to ensure we get policies from government which meet our sector's needs.

Nowhere is the need for a strong sectoral voice more pressing than in the case of the apprenticeship levy. It's coming in April and is going to mean a wholesale change in how apprenticeships are funded. We've been working with government from the start to ensure the needs of employers in our sector are taken into account, and we've had some really important wins on transfer of funding to supply chains and funding of qualifications where employers want them to take but two examples. We'll keep fighting for a levy system which keeps advanced manufacturing and engineering funds in the sector, and the Semta Group will continue to work with employers to help them understand the levy and consider how they might make best use of their funding. This is especially crucial for the small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) which make up the majority of the sector, many of which have paybills over £3 million and will thus be subject to the levy. Most SMEs won’t pay the levy, of course, and we’re here to help them to make sense of this brave new world too.


We’ve been keeping ourselves very busy this year through our involvement in apprenticeship trailblazer groups for many of the new advanced manufacturing and engineering standards (along with keeping the frameworks updated in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). Thanks to the hard work and expertise of the Semta team in supporting the employers around the table, our sector has been leading the way. We absolutely have to make a success of this policy - the skills pipeline of our sector depends on it - and I and the Semta team look forward to continuing to support advanced manufacturing and engineering employers as they develop new standards and begin to maintain existing ones. We're keen to showcase the best of British engineering skills abroad too, and our Semta International arm that we launched this year will keep up its good work with governments and employers in other countries to inject British quality and rigour into their skills systems.

2017 is going to see another major change in the governance of apprenticeships in England with the introduction of the new Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education. I'm pleased that members of the Semta team have been offering support to the Institute as it begins to flesh out its strategy and its operational model, as well as working closely with the Department for Education (DfE) on the development of the new technical education occupational pathway for Engineering and Manufacturing. With the government’s technical education reforms still being finessed, as a sector we have a fantastic opportunity to shape the content of the engineering curriculum in full time further education to ensure that it creates the skilled engineers of the future we need. Crucially, this will allow us to position engineering differently so that we can attract more females at 16 to consider engineering as a career and narrow the gender gap in the sector.

We've been keeping a close eye on the progress of the Bill that's putting the Institute into law too, and will keep on talking to MPs, civil servants and the Minister himself to relay the concerns and needs of employers within our sector. We're particularly keen to see a strong role for apprentices and learners, and will be pushing for members of our excellent Industry Apprentice Council (IAC) to be key players. We’re pleased that the IAC has been positively talked about during the Bill’s Committee stage, and we look forward to welcoming the Minister himself to the next meeting of the group so that he can see for himself just why they absolutely must be involved.

We will also continue to support a strong apprentice presence in the corridors of power. EAL, our specialist industry backed assessment service provider, acts as lead sponsor for the All Party Parliamentary Group for Apprenticeships, and we are also heavily involved as a Group in the APPGs for Skills and Employment and for Manufacturing, amongst others. We will continue telling the powerful and the influential, wherever we may meet them, what our sector needs to meet its skills needs, and we will keep on providing the strategic, high level voice our sector needs in an age of rapid technological development, making sure advanced manufacturing, engineering and associated industries employers stand to benefit and keep Britain at the global cutting edge of innovation.

Ours is a highly skilled sector and one which is reliant upon overseas workers to plug a number of hard to fill skills shortage vacancies, so advanced manufacturing and engineering employers have an obvious interest in how negotiations over Britain's exit from the European Union are going and what sort of arrangements will be made on movement of workers. The government's guarantee of science research and development spending provided a welcome dose of stability, but with Article 50 set to be triggered by March following the recent vote in the Commons we'll be doing everything we can to help to get a deal which ensures our sector's skills shortage doesn't become a real skills crisis. The government is implementing policies which will help Britain to grow our own engineers and scientists, with University Technical Colleges, Institutes of Technology and a wave of new universities set to transform the landscape of provision by 2020. I and my team at Semta stand ready to help employers to make sense of this new landscape and to help them to shape it to their strongest benefit.

So, overall it's been a really busy year and there's no sign of the pace lessening in 2017. Semta stands ready to act as a critical friend to government and to provide a much needed interface between it and the employers we represent - because as a not for profit skills champion, only we can truly represent the skills needs of the whole of our sector, from Shetland to Land's End and from the micro-businesses to the international household names. We need skills policies which work for them all, and that's what I and my team are determined to help to shape in 2017 and in the years to come.

This will be my last Skills Vision blog in 2016, may I take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year and I look forward to working with you all in 2017.


Read 2375 times Last modified on Tuesday, 13 December 2016 15:26