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Investing in a sustainable future through apprenticeships

The Liebherr Group is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of construction machinery, employing nearly 50,000 colleagues globally. The Group’s Sunderland site is part of its maritime division, manufacturing maritime cranes for use in port environments on ships and offshore rigs. Liebherr-Sunderland Managing Director, Ralph Saelzer, explains how the business continued with its successful apprenticeship programme throughout 2020.

How many apprentices does the Liebherr Group have in Sunderland?

In Sunderland we employ 180 people, and 23 of those are apprentices. Apprentices at the Liebherr Group take on a whole spectrum of roles and at our Sunderland site the majority are in shop floor roles like welding and fabrication. We also have apprentice roles in quality engineering and dispatch, and there are opportunities for staff to take on degree-level apprenticeships – three of our team have already completed a degree apprenticeship in leadership and management with Sunderland University.

What challenges did you and your apprentices face during COVID-19 and how did you overcome them?

When the pandemic hit, the question was whether we could continue to provide training on site for our apprentices. And could our apprentices still work alongside experienced staff in a meaningful way? It became clear that we could introduce the necessary social distancing and other precautions and still be able to carry on.

Another question was whether our training providers, like SETA, who we work with very closely, were still operating. We verified that they were, and that some of the training would now take place over Zoom. So we haven’t faced too much real disruption, we have just had to change the format of what we do, and people have had no problems with adhering to the guidelines.

What value do your apprentices bring to the business?

The value is immeasurable. Our apprenticeship scheme means that we can counteract any problems that might arise due to an ageing workforce, or difficulty in recruiting skilled tradespeople. This way we train our own staff and we bring skilled young people into the business. Apprenticeships aren’t a cost, they are an investment into a sustainable future.

What advice for other businesses hoping to work with apprentices potentially during lockdown?

It would be a big, big mistake to stop offering apprenticeships. It’s crucial that companies are still prepared to invest in apprenticeships despite the current situation – what you don’t invest in now, you will miss tomorrow.

Find information and guidance for businesses on hiring an apprentice on the North East Growth Hub.

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In conversation with Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, about National Apprenticeship Week

03-07 February 2020 sees the arrival of National Apprenticeship Week, putting this important route to employment in the spotlight. Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, highlights the benefits that apprentices can bring to businesses and new support that’s on offer from 2020.

If you’re a business planning for 2020 and beyond, it’s likely that staffing and skills will be on your list of priorities.

Apprenticeships can be a great way of bringing fresh talent and skills to your business, by employing an apprentice or upskilling staff via an apprenticeship scheme, with qualifications going all the way up to degree-level.

From 2020, larger employers who pay the Apprenticeship Levy can transfer up to 25 percent of their funds to smaller businesses to support them to take on an apprentice, which is great news for SMEs.

However, smaller businesses often tell us that they struggle with ‘where to start’ when it comes to hiring an apprentice; from how to fund an apprenticeship to recruiting the right person for the job.

To support businesses in that situation, we’ve just updated our Apprenticeship Toolkit on the North East Growth Hub to offer simple and clear advice on where to start and where to get support.

The Toolkit brings together useful information to help businesses find, recruit, train and develop an apprentice. It also includes case studies from local businesses that have benefited from employing apprentices.

On a national level, a significant development for 2020 is that all employers in England will soon have access to all the benefits of the National Apprenticeship Service – including greater choice of quality training providers, more control over how they pay for training, and how they access and recruit apprentices.

The transition of non-levy paying businesses onto the full apprenticeship service will take place from early 2020 and extra funding will be available to support up to 5,000 new apprenticeship starts through the service every month until March 2020.

If you’re not able to offer an apprenticeship, you might want to consider offering a traineeship instead, which consist of 20 percent on-the-job and 80 percent off-the-job training.

Traineeships help 16 to 24-year-olds get ready for a job or apprenticeship if they don’t have the appropriate skills or experience. It involves a minimum of 100 hours of work experience over a maximum of six months. Employers need to deliver a meaningful work experience to the trainee, but it’s a much smaller time commitment than an apprenticeship. It’s a great way to give someone their first step onto the career ladder, and your business gets to benefit from an injection of fresh ideas and talent too.

During 2018/19, we saw over 15,500 apprenticeships start in our region. By offering an apprenticeship or traineeship, businesses can help to improve skills across the North East, boosting the economy and creating more and better jobs. It would be fantastic to see these numbers really grow from 2020 onwards.

To find out more about the benefits of apprenticeships and the value they can add to your business, visit the Apprenticeship Toolkit on the North East Growth Hub.

You can also find more information about apprenticeships and traineeships by visiting www.gov.uk or www.apprenticeships.gov.uk.


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National Apprenticeship Week – What next for the North East?

North East LEP Skills Director Michelle Rainbow gives the lowdown on apprenticeships and calls on the Government to listen closely to businesses and help create more demand.

The Government plans to create three million apprenticeships by 2020. It’s an increasingly ambitious target, not least because the number of apprenticeships has dropped since the Apprenticeship Levy was introduced in April 2017.

So what’s going on? Here in the North East it’s a mixed picture. Having seen apprenticeship schemes promoted heavily, pupils, parents and schools have understandably bought in. Conversely, businesses have been hanging back, waiting to see what the quality standards will be like – so there is supply of eager applicants but less demand.

The complexity of the Apprenticeship Levy hasn’t helped. An early assessment report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) shows that 22% of employers don’t know whether they have to pay the Levy or not.

This plays out here, where SMEs continue to seek clarity. There is a big difference between sectors which are used to hiring apprentices, such as construction, manufacturing and engineering, and those for whom this is still a new innovation. It’s one of the reasons our case studies focus on the fields of pharmaceuticals and law as they’re not traditionally associated with this type of scheme.

Right now our ask of Government is that it continues to liaise closely with employers to understand their needs, provides reassurance about quality standards and simplifies how the Levy works – and this has to include clarification on how unspent monies will be used to set the record straight.

We need an agile system which can flex and respond to opportunities and issues in a much quicker timeframe. We also need to create real business demand.

Better qualifications and better jobs for all

Here at the North East LEP we particularly welcome higher and degree apprenticeships as we strive to create more and better jobs to support the local economy.

The North East Growth Hub lists the various providers and is well worth a look for those looking for more information.

However we are keen that the government takes steps to ensure these remain open to everyone.

Access to affordable degree-level education will of course prove popular across the board as more people understand the opportunity and move to maximise this. As such there is a particular need to engage with the more disadvantaged and not just the squeezed middle classes if we are to raise ambitions, keep a level playing field and make sure no one gets left behind.

Ultimately the apprenticeship drive is moving in the right direction but implementation always brings new challenges, as well as the need for expectation management.

Rest assured, we will continue to work with the business community, schools and parents to represent their needs with Government and do all we can to achieve the greatest success possible.