Apprenticeships: Turning Talk into Action

Oct 31, 2023

Presentations of the An Apprenticeship System Fit For The Future report at the House of Lords

By Beatrice Barleon, Head of Policy and Public Affairs

This month we were delighted to launch the apprenticeships report we had been working on in close collaboration with former Labour and Conservative ministers Lord Willetts and Lord Knight since the start of the year. Fit for the Future: A 5-point plan to grow and sustain engineering and technology apprenticeships for young people is the result of an in-depth inquiry involving months of research, analysis, listening and discussions with over 100 engineering and technology businesses, think tanks, professional engineering institutions, youth organisations and young people themselves. There is no getting away from it - it was a complex project to navigate, and it took hard work and dedication to reach the final report. There is so much to consider and so many players involved, money that needs to be spent more wisely as well as a cultural change that needs to happen. It was never going to be straightforward to pull together a set of recommendations that could achieve all that.

But I believe we did it – and I think it is fair to say that the mood at the launch event in the House of Lords was one of cautious optimism. While the report does not provide one single silver bullet that will solve all the problems (which report ever does?) - it provides a clear policy programme that both Lord Willetts and Lord Knight, as well as us at EngineeringUK, believe will make a difference – if followed up. And that is the important bit…

It is in many ways quite easy to put out a report with some great recommendations and then wash your hands of it and say – thank you very much, here is what we have to say, please go ahead and action it.

The issue is that a report in itself does not really change the world. The action that follows does – or at least has the potential to. So in many ways, the real work is only starting now. Let’s make sure that we all not only talk the talk, but truly walk the walk when it comes to making apprenticeships fit for the future.

The report makes recommendations for government to consider and we at EngineeringUK, together with Lord Willetts and Lord Knight, will do our upmost to ensure that we convey those recommendations to all the different political parties and urge them to take them forward. Getting any political party to take forward a recommendation is never easy – it requires tenacity, patience and a lot of work. It also requires others to push them same message, say the same things and highlight the need for change whenever they can. So in many ways, this is a plea to all those who welcomed the inquiry and the report at the launch event and beyond - to help us spread the word.

The report also calls on businesses to play their part. It asks businesses to lend their expertise to education providers to ensure that they have the teaching expertise to teach the courses businesses want to access. It also asks engineering employers to employ more young people as apprentices. It has become clear to us throughout the writing of this report that the UK needs to move towards a much more symbiotic relationship between the education providers and employers, in which both realise their responsibilities in educating and skilling the next generation.

And finally, the report also has a clear message for the wider engineering community. Get involved, lend your expertise and really get behind apprenticeships.

Now is the time to move from a 5-point ‘plan’ to a 5-point ‘plan of action’. I am personally gearing myself up to walk the walk, and so is EngineeringUK – the question is, are you? I truly hope so as I do believe that the success of the engineering sector, as well as the success of this country, relies on all of us.

To find out more and to download the report and executive summary visit:

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