Discover the potential of apprenticeships

10 mins

In February, the nation celebrated National Apprenticeship week; with a ‘Skills for Li...

Mane Engineering and Manufacturing Team

By Mane Engineering and Manufacturing Team

In February, the nation celebrated National Apprenticeship week; with a ‘Skills for Life’ theme, the event is aimed to highlight the crucial role that apprenticeships play in the development of careers for young people. The awareness week is also a chance for businesses to see the benefit of being able to nurture and develop young workers into a talented team who are highly skilled and adept in their industry- something which is vital for the future of engineering and technology. But are businesses really making the most of apprenticeships, or is the potential yet to be unleashed?

Post-pandemic, the number of young people taking up engineering apprenticeships is low, despite 2022 seeing an increase of 25.8% (compared with just 8.6% in other sectors). But while things seem to be looking up, the numbers are still nowhere near what they were in 2019. In fact, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies are currently seeing the biggest decline of all the engineering subjects, with a 34% drop since 2015. (

So, what’s happening, and how can we turn this around? Ultimately, there’s a real need now to focus on increasing the numbers of young people going in to engineering and technology careers. We need these new recruits to be diverse, and focused on achieving net zero, whilst also helping to tackle the UK’s economic growth agenda. We also need to make sure we’re creating better pathways to these careers- and encouraging more to take on apprenticeships is integral to this, particularly as we move towards a greener future.

2022’s Enabling Skills for the Industrial Decarbonisation Supply Chain report predicts that we’ll need more than 350,000 extra people across pre-construction, construction and operation to decarbonise the UK’s industry by 2050. Most of these additional people will be at technician level in design, engineering, manufacture and construction- and we know already that demand for engineers in the energy and transport sectors is growing. 

The Industrial Decarbonisation Research and Innovation Centre (IDRIC0 also notes that currently, over 30% of the UK’s workforce are aged over 50- and without enough young people stepping in to the labour market to replace them, we’re set to lose the valuable experience, knowledge and skills these workers have when they retire.

It’s clear that young people need encouragement to take on education and training, but many just aren’t aware of the benefits that apprenticeships can bring.

This view is echoed in the Net Zero Workforce report, which found that lack of consideration of STEM uptake in schools was partly to blame for this. And despite more people choosing to study STEM subjects, more are needed- an increase of 24% is needed for physics and 19% for maths, plus we need more women to take up these apprenticeships too. Put simply, young people need to be informed about apprenticeships, and education providers need to improve their strategies for engagement, and for delivering crucial training.

Considering the current trend of decreasing levels 2 and 3 apprenticeships, alongside increasing levels 4,5,6 and 7 in the engineering and technology sector remains the same, the question must be asked of the impact this can have on young people with lower-level entry skills. How many will be able to access apprenticeships, and how many will qualify as technicians in the sectors?

Likewise, how do we encourage more female participation? Despite a 16% rise at levels 4 and 5 since 2015, the engineering sector is still struggling to recruit women, and this needs to be a consideration when tackling the larger issue.

Overall, the decline in apprenticeship uptake needs to be addressed, and the barriers need to be identified. We need to explore the reasons why young people aren’t taking up apprenticeships, how employers and training providers can improve the way they do things, and what can be done to drive demand for apprenticeships in the engineering sector.

How can we encourage employers to take apprentices on? How can we improve the working relationships between employers, the government, schools, and further education institutions? Hopefully, National Apprenticeship Week can raise awareness and help to guide more young people down this route into a fulfilling, lifelong career in engineering and technology.

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