How apprenticeships could save the ‘crisis-hit’ STEM workforce

By Raspberry Jim,

According to recent figures the UK’s crisis-hit STEM sector is currently facing a “worrying” shortfall of over 170,000 workers, with leading manufacturer Sony UK Technology Centre (UK TEC) claiming apprenticeships could be the future.

Statistics from STEM Learning reveal a discrepancy of 173,000 skilled workers across the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) sectors, which is reportedly costing companies around £1.5 billion annually in recruitment costs.

This comes as nine in ten STEM businesses revealed they struggled to employ staff with the necessary skills between 2017 and 2018, according to the STEM Skills Indicator.

However, Gerald Kelly, the director of professional services at leading manufacturer Sony UK TEC, said apprenticeships could be “a fundamental stepping stone” to solving the growing issue.

Mr Kelly, who started his career as an apprentice, spoke out about the benefits of such schemes as figures from the Department for Education showed that over 341,000 people elected to start an apprenticeship between 2017 and 2018.

It was also revealed that over 74,000 starts between 2016 and 2017 were in engineering and manufacturing sectors, House of Commons’ findings show.

Mr Kelly said: “Apprenticeships really are a highly effective way to kickstart your career, and acquire unparalleled hands-on experience in the real world, all while continuing your studies.

“In particular I believe that an engineering apprenticeship can be beneficial, as it can offer an in- depth insight into what an engineer’s working life really entails and the diversity that the profession can offer.

“Over the years we have taken on a number of apprentices through our in-house Apprentice Scheme and we consistently find that this first-hand exposure enables them to become well-rounded, confident, and dedicated members of staff.

“Having started as an apprentice myself when I first joined Sony UK TEC, and worked my way up to director of professional services, I can attest to the wide-ranging and rewarding career that an apprenticeship can lead to.

“If our apprenticeship success is anything to go by, I believe that this could be a fundamental stepping stone towards solving the predicted STEM skills shortage that the industry is bracing itself for.”

Here Mr Kelly of Sony UK TEC, which is renowned worldwide for producing high-specification HD broadcast cameras, explains his top three benefits of an engineering apprenticeship.

Incredibly diverse

An apprenticeship offers a unique opportunity work across all areas of the business and develop an in-depth understanding of the profession.

From month to month an apprentice could be working on different industry-leading projects, alongside different teams, and ultimately acquiring a host of diverse skills, which enable them to choose the most rewarding career path.

This is particularly relevant to those seeking to work in manufacturing or engineering, with roles varying from Software Engineering, to Production Engineering, to Development Engineering and Robotics.

Earn as you learn

One of the greatest advantages of an apprenticeship is the ability to earn a wage as you study. Not only will you acquire the direct skills you need to actually perform the role, you can develop the knowledge that enables you to achieve and progress within the profession. You’ll develop meaningful relationships with colleagues and experts throughout the industry, and gain invaluable industry insights, while enhancing your academic understanding.

Hands on experience

One of the most vital aspects of an apprenticeship in engineering is the unique ability to get hands- on experience in a manufacturing setting.

While learning about the theory of engineering is vital, there is no substitute for directly using the required tools and seeing innovative technology created.

This unparalleled experience teaches apprentices a great deal about the potential safety considerations and real-life implications of working in an engineering setting, and also enables them to enjoy the rewards and inevitable sense of achievement.

Sony UK TEC has launched its latest Apprenticeship Scheme recruitment drive, with applicants having until February 28th to apply. Applicants require a minimum of 5 GCSEs, including a B or above in Maths, and Cs or above in Science and English.