Firms looking to increase their skills base welcomed yesterday’s Budget announcement of a boost in government funding for apprenticeships.
Chancellor George Osborne confirmed over an extra £100 million in funding support for apprenticeships over the next two years.
The bulk of this money will go towards the Apprenticeship Grants for Employers (AGE) scheme, which has been handed an extra £85 million in both 2014-15 and 2015-16 for over 100,000 grants to employers.
Another £20 million over two years has been provided to support degree and masters level apprenticeships.
We have spent far too much time and effort looking for staff in a small and ever-shrinking pool of British engineering talent
Surface Generation’s Ben Halford
“Apprenticeships are an ideal gateway for a young person pursuing a career in manufacturing,” said EEF head of employment & skills policy Tim Thomas.
”The extension of the apprenticeship grant for employers will encourage more businesses to offer such opportunities. Additional funding for apprenticeships up to postgraduate level will support manufacturers to access the higher level skills needed to fulfil their ambitions to launch new products and services and tap into new markets. Employers are best placed to design and develop these to ensure they reflect the needs of industry.”
The announcement was also welcomed by the food and drinks sector, with trade body the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) linking skills support with the sector’s ability to grow.
“Growing our industry’s talent pool through apprenticeships is a key priority for food and drink manufacturers,” said FDF director general Melanie Leech.
“We welcome the announcement of the additional funding to establish higher level apprenticeships. The development of a robust skills ‘pipeline’ for food and drink companies is central to the sector’s ability to deliver future sustainable growth.”
However, Osborne’s pro-manufacturing budget announcements, which also included increasing compensation for industrial energy prices and boosting export finance, were not universally welcomed within industry.
Surface Generation, an SME composite manufacturer based in the Midlands, claimed that the Budget was ‘too little, too late’ to really make a difference for UK manufacturers on the global stage.
“The biggest challenges we have had to face are access to funding and finding qualified and good quality engineers,” said Surface Generation chief executive Ben Halford.
“To date, we have secured all of our funding from individuals and spent far too much time and effort looking for staff in a small and ever-shrinking pool of British engineering talent. We will have to see the details around plans to encourage more apprenticeships, and how this will affect the increasing shortage of quality engineers in this country.”