Skills update no.1 :
Graham Pennington Deputy CEO Salford City College and CEO Trinity Business Training.
Young People and Skills
I was honoured to act as host for Salford City College’s Salford 500 pledge celebration on the 3rd of February. The aim of pledge was to local firms to take on 500 apprentices- a goal we have now met.
The support has been fantastic, we had apprentices from: ITV; Seddons; Symphony Housing; Vital Rail; Wilkinson Star; and our own Salford City College apprentices. But this is just a sample of the 150 employers we are working with. A heartfelt thanks to you all!
A thank you also to everyone who has helped make the pledge a success. Including other partners: Salford City Council, Salford University; Freemont Construction; Hazel Bears MP; the Skills Funding Agency and NAS.
A special thanks to the Principal and Governors for backing the programme by supporting the investment of resources.
Lastly, a big thanks to Rachel Kay and all the staff at Trinity Business Training.
It was a great event to see all the young people starting out on their careers.
This brings now me onto the key theme of this update the prospects for young people leaving school and young adults either leaving school sixth forms or colleges.
Guest of honour Hazel Blears MP presenting certificates to Apprentices with Graham Pennington
The statistics show that youth unemployment is now a major issue nationally and this is repeated in the Greater Manchester area. Statistics from the Commission for the New Economy in Manchester recently highlighted the high levels of unemployment amongst 18-24 year olds. Many causes are attributable but the emphasis of the Government is not on volumes of young people going into higher education as was the focus of the previous Labour administration. It is now focussed on as it sees it on appropriate pathways and value for money to the public purse, by ensuring economic outcomes to education.
The changes brought in are undoubtedly causing some young people to think about their options following on from school and college. The introduction of higher university tuition fees with a loans system is a potential discouragement. A loan sounds like a debt rather than an investment in future employment chances. The position is exacerbated for some households due to the recession and changes to benefit levels, and even financial support for students in college. All this may give a push towards young people taking an employment route earlier than previously.
In turn this is all caught up in other changes with greater private involvement being encouraged in the education and training system. The Work Programme is dominated by large prime contractors many from the commercial world with companies such as Avanta and Serco being the key ‘players’. Added into to this mix are FE colleges and private providers both commercial and charitable. It is difficult to get a coherence to some of the programmes and young people are left with a plethora of possible routes. This is coupled to the change in the connexions service and its replacement with an all age careers system, which crucially removes at present the requirement for one to one guidance for school leavers.
The question is what can be done to stitch this patchwork quilt together? In terms of my own instituition a number of actions are being implemented.
We firstly decided to offer our own apprenticeships, which has brought us closer to employers by being able to provide a complete training offer and has enabled us to very directly ensure quality. There have been many recent stories in the press about short apprenticeships (De Veres Hotels being one that springs to mind, and the recent stories surrounding supermarkets) which has re-emphasised the need for proper regulatory oversight.
My college has always delivered work place NVQs and commercial training and by using these connections it’s possible to encourage employers to consider apprentices. The appeal is not to altruism but to the ‘bottom line’, young people have both talent and energy. By investing in this employers will gain access to this and also be able to develop this talent to their own organisation’s needs.
Showing my age here for a minute; how many employers would be mesmerised by the skills of young people to use computers, the internet, and social media?
Sales, communication methods, and business development will be increasingly driven through these media. Young people are immersed in this form of communication.
My experience has been that many employers are willing to give young people that first opportunity but that work needs to be done. One of the key comments that comes back time and again is regarding maths and english skills and ‘work readiness’, including obvious things such as punctuality, how people communicate and present themselves. Our college is now integrating employability skills at all levels. Colleges also need to look at the way they work- employers are not interested academic years and require vacancies to be filled when it meets their business needs. Colleges need to be able to respond to the employer as the customer. Similarly we now have a dedicated unit that deals directly with employers.
ITV Apprentices supported by Salford City College on the set of Coronation Street- Their first day at work!
The Principal of my own college has recently launched an initiative aimed at leavers who want to progress into the world of work. The programme known as ‘the plus programme’ ( studies +) enables students to follow an intensive work readiness programme at the end of the course and fill in any technical skills gaps. The aim is to place them either: onto an apprenticeship; give them meaningful work experience; or directly into employment with training. We want to give young people meaningful careers.
Young people need real experience whether it is ‘mock’ interviews in front of real employers or the experience of working fixed hours in an employment setting. It is about ‘real’ life preparation.
The key to all this however is working with the people that create the jobs: employers. Many employers are put off by the paperwork of apprenticeships and the responsibilities. This is where colleges such as my own can play a key role by firstly explaining what is involved and giving the support to navigate through the bureaucracy while proving the benefits. This is true collaboration and partnership. My college actively works with agencies such as the National Apprenticeship Service to highlight the support available to employers.
In working with employers the challenge is for organisations such as my own to adapt to meet the needs of workplace. Colleges offer a fantastic talent pool of young people which employers can tap into and this can be done for free instead of paying an employment agency. We have 5000 young people who form an enormous talent pool that can be tapped into. We can vouch for young people based on knowing them for 2-3 years not just a 45 minute interview.
Some key facts (source National Apprenticeship Service)
- Over 80% of those employers who employ apprentices agree they make their workplace more productive.
- 81% of consumers favour using a company which takes on apprentices.
- The National Minimum Wage for apprentices is £2.60 per hour. Many employers prefer to pay more however, and research shows that the average salary is approx £170 per week.
- Employers who take on a 16-18 year old apprentice only pay their salary. The Government will fund their training.
- There are more than 200 different types of Apprenticeships available offering over 1,200 job roles.
- 92% of employers who employ apprentices believe that Apprenticeships lead to a more motivated and satisfied workforce.
- 83% of employers who employ apprentices rely on their Apprenticeships programme to provide the skilled workers that they need for the future.
- One in five employers are hiring more apprentices to help them through the tough economic climate.
Apprenticeship funding is available from the National Apprenticeship Service. The size of the contribution varies depending on your sector and the age of the candidate. If the apprentice is aged 16–18 years old, you will receive 100 per cent of the cost of the training; if they are 19-24 years old, you will receive up to 50 per cent; if they are 25 years old or over you may only get a contribution depending on the sector and area in which you operate.
The National Apprenticeship Service will provide up to 40,000 Apprenticeship grants to small medium sized employers recruiting 16 to 24 year olds with a value of £1,500 to encourage new employers to take on new apprentices.
The £1,500 is in addition to the training costs of the Apprenticeship framework which are met in full for young people aged 16 to 18 and 50% for those aged 19 to 24.
After all that what can you do
If you are an employer talk to us about taking on an apprentice if we are not in your area we can advise who to contact.
You can contact ourselves at: www.salfordcitycollege-trinity.co.uk tel: 0161 631 5555
the most useful link is: www.apprenticeships.org.uk for the National Apprenticeship Service.
If you are based in Salford: Sign the Pledge!
If you are not an employer join with us in encouraging employers to give young people an opportunity.
The views expressed are those of the author not Salford City College