A fringe event on encouraging quality apprenticeships was hosted by unionlearn – the learning and skills arm of the TUC at congress today.
The event was addressed by Helen Goodman MP; Gail Cartmaill, Assistant General Secretary of Unite; Nigel Milton of BAA and Sally Rose, a young BAA apprentice and attended by reps and union officials from around the country.
The key message agreed by both audience and the panel was that apprenticeships are essential to helping young people develop a career, not just a job. It is also vital that unions, business and government work together to ensure that good quality apprenticeships are widely available.
Nigel Milton, Director of Policy and Political Relations at BAA opened the event he spoke of the importance of apprenticeships in recruiting and retaining staff, and training them to the level of skill required. The apprenticeship scheme at Heathrow has been so successful, that 70% of all apprentices that have gone through the scheme since 1977 are still employed there.
Nigel said “There is a strong business case for us to invest in apprenticeships in this way. It is essential to customer experience that all employees at Heathrow are skilled in customer service. The better experience the customer has, the more likely they are to return to Heathrow.”
Helen Goodman MP spoke of the importance of good quality apprenticeships to rebuilding the economy ”It is essential” she said “that we build good quality jobs, with good wages to which are good for the economy.” She also argued that “government need to allow more input into the content of apprenticeships to ensure they are relevant.” This would help plug the gap in mid-level skills she has witnessed in the North East.
Gail Cartmail argued that “Government, employers and unions should use their procurement to promote high quality apprenticeships.” She also voiced concern – which was shared by the other panellists – that “political pressure to achieve targets that threaten to dilute the brand”.
The undoubted star of the session was 22 year old Sally Rose, who has recently completed an engineering apprenticeship. Sally said “what attracted me to doing the apprenticeship was that I could get paid to learn – and learn every day in the first year! I was much more likely to get a job at the end of this apprenticeship than if I’d gone straight to university and I won’t be in debt.” Sally is now being supported by BAA to go on to do a foundation degree in building services. She said “There are directors who are former apprentices here, which is really inspiring. You can also take further education on and on and on. I feel like there’s nothing I can’t do.”