The Covid-19 pandemic has had many effects, but one of them, perhaps understandably, was a drop in apprenticeships.
Given the nature of some of the work that apprenticeships may be offered in, lockdowns, working from home and the lack of permissible close contact all made such training harder for apprenticeship training providers to accommodate. However, as matters have eased back towards the ‘old normal’, the good news is apprenticeship figures are on the rise again.
The increase in the engineering sector was welcomed by Beatrice Barleon, Head of Policy & Public Affairs at EngineeringUK. Writing for The Engineer, she said an upturn in the number of new engineering and technology apprenticeships starting in 2021-22 has been “welcome news for the sector”.
Engineering UK’s analysis of Department for Education data has shown that while apprenticeship starts were still 5.5 per cent down on 2018-19, they had still risen 25.8 per cent on 2020-21, compared with an 8.6 per cent increase in other sectors.
This might suggest that apprenticeship numbers, especially in engineering and tech, will soon pass pre-pandemic levels. But Ms Barleon warned against complacency, speaking of “ongoing challenges” faced by the sector.
Even the higher number of apprenticeships “still leaves us with a huge shortfall in the number of people who’ll be required to enable the UK to rise to the challenge of net zero and support the country’s economic growth agenda,” she remarked.
She added: ”In order to meet our net zero target and properly spur on sustainable economic growth, we need to exponentially grow the number of engineering and technology apprenticeship starts, and completions.”
One high-tech firm that is making big strides in taking on apprenticeships is BAE Systems, the biggest defence company in the UK.
It is to take on 2,600 graduates and apprentices in 2023, up 43 per cent on the 2022 figure.