Are Collaborative Apprenticeships the Solution to the Future Skills Gap?

Adam Brooks
Apprenticeship numbers have fallen by 59% after the new government levy was introduced earlier this year. In the meantime, the nuclear industry desperately needs to build a sustainable and competent workforce to avoid a future skills shortage. Could collaborative apprenticeships be the solution?

25,000 jobs are expected to be created at Hinkley Point C (HPC), the first in a new generation of UK power stations. The wide range of skills required to build HPC means that there really is opportunity for everyone.  Yet, the ageing demographic of the existing workforce in the nuclear industry, coupled with the low uptake of new apprenticeships, provides an impending gap in skilled resource.

In collaboration with EDF Energy, we have developed a unique apprenticeship scheme to help plug that gap. It is unique in that, rather than delivering the schemes themselves, EDF Energy has given parity to its supply chain to:

  • jointly develop the intake/selection of candidates;
  • employ some of the apprentices through our own organisations;
  • provide all apprentices experience across employing organisations on the client’s programme;
  • provide all apprentices experience outside of the client’s programme irrespective of employer; and
  • jointly provide training modules outside of that provided through the supporting university which all apprentices attend.

This year’s apprentices are the first tranche of annual intakes across the project’s supply chain, placing these collaborative apprenticeships at the forefront of our joint workforce development and skills needs.

"...collaborative apprenticeship programmes such as ours can attract and retain the next generation, thus addressing the looming skills shortage and providing the best possible springboard to a successful career."

As a group of employing organisations, we are dedicated to providing the best possible access and experience for all apprentices working and learning as part of the project; maximising their opportunities to develop a variety of skills in different specialisms. By doing so, it is also accepted that each of us need to collaboratively evaluate, learn, develop best practice and adopt ongoing improvement for future schemes.

To facilitate this, an Apprenticeship Management Team has been established from across all participating organisations. This team enables us to identify and adopt the best practice, and also to seek impartial feedback from both the supporting university and those apprentices currently engaged in the programme (irrespective of actual employer).

The benefits of the programme are mutual to all participating parties in that at the end of the process, if the majority of apprentices elect to remain in the construction industry, then we will have degree-qualified resource with rounded experience in all facets of the project. If the apprentices elect to take those post-graduate roles within any of the participating companies, then clearly even more benefit is gained on the investment made.

In summary, whilst the new levy process has been attributed in part to leading to the downturn in apprenticeship numbers, it is up to those large organisations to whom the levy is mandated to take up the challenge and use this to their and society’s benefit. Within the construction industry, there are many significant and exciting infrastructure programmes planned; collaborative apprenticeship programmes such as ours can attract and retain the next generation, thus addressing the looming skills shortage and providing the best possible springboard to a successful career.

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