Today, EEF's Director of Policy Steve Radley gave evidence to the Science and Technology Select Committee on its inquiry into Engineering Skills. As well as referring to EEF's submission to the Committee earlier this year, we also used some of the key findings and data from our forthcoming report Skills for Growth: A more productive and flexible labour market to support our evidence.
The Committee's Chair Andrew Miller MP began by asking the Panel, which also included EEF member Andrew Churchill of JJ Churchill Ltd, exactly what skills engineering companies need now and what skills they may need in the future. Our survey data reveals that as manufacturers are finding themselves competing in global markets, they are continuously focusing on developing new products, services and processes.
As such, a third of companies expect demand for service-related skills to increase in the next three years. There were also other areas where manufacturers expect skill needs to increase more reflect their growth strategies:
• Launching new products – R&D, technical and design skills;• Developing new services – service-related and technical skills;• Selling into new markets – sales and marketing skills;• Introducing new processes – project management and craft and technician skills.
Stephen Metcalfe MP briefly questioned the Panel on Apprenticeships. Manufacturers have a proven track record with Apprenticeships so it is unsurprising that our survey shows 68% of manufacturing companies offer apprenticeships, and three-quarters of those had manufacturing and engineering Apprenticeship starts in the past 12 months.
The main point we put across was that to remain globally competitive, we must raise our ambitions on Apprenticeships. To achieve this we need to focus more or Advanced and Higher Apprenticeships, which within manufacturing have not accelerated at the same rate as Intermediate Apprenticeships. (Chart 1)
Chart 1: Growth in Manufacturing and Engineering Apprenticeships over recent years
Source: The Data Service (2012)
Following questions on how to encourage further investment in Apprenticeships, we pushed for putting the employer in the driving seat, primarily through routing funding through the employer via a reduction in National Insurance Contributions (NICs). This would increase competition in the training market and drive providers to become more responsive to the needs of industry.
There was a real interest from the Committee on employers' perspectives on University Technical Colleges. A relatively new concept, driven by Lord Baker, UTCs offer 14-19 year olds the chance to combine academic learning with vocational elements.
The development of UTCs has allowed employers and universities to work more closely together, developing a pipeline of talent in specific sectors, predominantly engineering. UTC students are taught by industry experts and there is plenty of scope for employers to be involved in developing the curriculum. Of course the future growth of UTCs will depend on educational reform more widely – any new qualifications at Key Stage 4 for example must be compatible with UTCs if they are to survive.
There were plenty of questions from Committee members on careers advice. One of the main points we raised was the disappointment amongst employers at the Government's decision to remove compulsory Work Experience at Key Stage 4.
Three-quarters of manufacturers currently offer work experience to young people and we would not want to see this figure decline. Not only does work experience provide young people with a taste for a career in a specific job role, it also builds a young person's employability skills, which businesses are increasingly demanding.
A short session to say everything we need to say on skills, with us barely touching the surface on what our report will reveal next month….