As Damian Hinds Announces New Skills Strategy, What Does This Mean For Apprenticeships?

Last week Education Secretary Damian Hinds, announced a new 10-year skills strategy for the UK. A year on from the publication of the Industrial Skills Strategy, he highlighted we have two key issues facing our future prosperity: Brexit (we’ll save that one for another article) and PRODUCTIVITY.

He labelled us a nation of ‘technical education snobs’, treating vocational pathways as the second-class option. As he proposed a greater focus on T-Levels as the solution, (the technical education option,) to be on an equal footing with A Levels, I can’t help but question ‘what does this mean for Apprenticeships?’

Whilst I’m not opposed to T Levels– in fact one of our Directors is on the development panel for the engineering and manufacturing T Level – we strongly feel that there is more to be done to push apprenticeships as the skills solution and remove this so-called snobbery once and for all.

The Education Secretary delivered his speech within the new Battersea Power Station Development. Ironically, three Cadcoe Digital Engineering Apprentices contributed towards the design and detailing of several elements of the regeneration. Need I say anymore?


It’s Not Just about FE Colleges. We Need More Specialist Training Providers With Meaningful Educational Partnerships

Damian Hinds gives little mention to training providers being part of the productivity skills solution. An interesting emission, when it is the training provider that holds the closest links to industry. One of the answers to increased productivity and reducing the skills shortage is the idea of a specialist training provider. In the last 2 years the Construction and Design Centre of Excellence (Cadcoe) has supported over 100 Digital Engineering Apprentices into specialist industry roles – in fact we have never been busier.

Back in July, Damian Hinds himself, visited several Cadcoe Apprentices at our training suite within Dudley College. He spoke to our Director of Teaching and Apprentices to understand how our unique approach benefits productivity and experienced first hand how a three-way ‘employer – training provider – FE College’ relationship can successfully work.

Damian Hinds with Cadcoe Apprentices

Three Key Elements to Success

Cadcoe Apprentices do progress their careers. 100% secure full-time employment after training, and it’s reported that workplace productivity is four times that from a traditional engineering construction training programme. We put this success down to three key elements:

Demand-led training from industry
Two of our Directors also head up a digital engineering company Our operational team is immersed within an advancing construction industry, which mean we can deliver relevant training to tomorrows workforce.

Meaningful Educational Partnerships
Working in isolation isn’t effective. Cadcoe has a proven success model of working with leading FE Colleges, such as Dudley College of Technology to ensure Apprentices maximise their learning within an outstanding environment

Intensive Learning
A period of intensive learning at the front-end of an Apprenticeship equals instant workplace productivity, greater confidence, increased productivity and quicker progression for the apprentice.

Damian Hinds with Digital Engineering Apprentices

Matching Skills With The Labour Market Need

For the UK to match productivity levels of the likes of France, Germany and the US, we need to ensure the skills match the need of the labour market – Damian Hinds, I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. For too long education choices have been driven by what colleges and training providers choose to offer.

Surely this is where Apprenticeships should come into their own? At Cadcoe, we go out to the employer, assess their skill needs and find a suitable candidate. For every cohort we run, 50% of the placements are from employers who have previously been through the Cadcoe training experience – they rely on a digital engineering apprenticeship to feed their future workforce.


We Must Not Dismiss Apprenticeships As The Key to Solving Our Productivity Issues

Apprenticeships have a vital role to play in the UK, especially in a construction industry, facing a catastrophic skills shortage, an ever-increasing demand on housing and a need for digital transformation.

Cadcoe Apprentices are working on ground-breaking design projects at home and abroad, including Manchester Airport, Modular Volumetric Housing Initiatives and landmark London builds. A number who completed their training just 2 years ago are now managing their own projects – they are the digital natives, taking construction forward into more efficient ways of working.

I’m looking forward to seeing how Damian Hind’s Skills Strategy develops during the next 10 years. I know I’ll have a few more wrinkles, the red hairs may have turned a shade of grey, but one thing is for absolute certain. I will still be as passionate as I am now, about solving the UK construction industry skills shortage whilst giving young people – this country’s future – their first big opportunity.

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BY Declan McDonnell | 11th December 2018