11 January 2023

Inquiry investigates 'urgent need' to grow apprenticeships in engineering, manufacturing and technology

The inquiry in the UK seeks to uncover the reasons behind the decline in engineering, manufacturing and technology apprenticeships.

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Former Labour and Conservative ministers Lord Knight and Lord Willetts, with support from charity EngineeringUK, are leading the project.

Employers, training providers, young people and those who work with them, are all being urged to get involved in the call for evidence by submitting their views, evidence or ideas to improve this much-needed career pathway into the sector.   

Despite a modest uptick in numbers last year, engineering-related apprenticeship starts in England are still 9% lower than in 2014/15. The uptake varies by subject with a 34% decline for engineering and manufacturing technologies.

Lord Willetts, Inquiry Co-Chair and former Conservative Minister for Universities and Science, comments, “Apprenticeships, especially in engineering and technology, enjoy enormous political and media support and are a crucial route into work for many people. Meanwhile the number of young people actually doing these apprenticeships is falling.

“Our inquiry will draw on expert evidence to understand why this is happening and what can be done about it, so that we can grow and sustain the opportunities that apprenticeships offer to young people."

Lord Knight, Inquiry Co-Chair and former Labour Education and Employment Minister, comments, “Britain must transition towards a more sustainable and productive economy. The skills shortage is a dragging anchor on that transition, particularly in key areas such as engineering. The fall in young people taking up engineering and technology apprenticeships is an urgent problem.”

The call for evidence, which is open until 27 February 2023, is seeking views and ideas from the sector on 4 key areas:

  • Opportunities - What part do apprenticeships play in helping to meet the UK’s skills needs in engineering and technology?
  • State of play - What are the reasons behind the overall decline in engineering apprenticeship starts in recent years? They are particularly interested in understanding more about supply and demand.
  • Barriers - What are the barriers for businesses taking on young people as apprentices and what are the barriers for young people in accessing them?
  • Solutions - What do you think needs to change to help increase the number and diversity of young people taking up and completing engineering and technology apprenticeships?