Has the engineering industry become an unforeseen victim of Covid-19?

You can be forgiven to think that the service and hospitality industries have suffered the most in the past year due to the continuous ‘yo-yo-ing’ of tier restrictions and national lockdowns. The ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ campaign was a short-term fix for the suffering bars and restaurants which still have a long and crucial way to go if they are to regain any sense of ‘normality’.

Retail is also grieving, with the news that the Arcadia Group, along with big names such as Harvey’s, DW Sports, Monsoon, Oasis and Warehouse all falling victim to the pandemic. And yet, in contrast, the construction industry continues to boom and apprentices are being hired to keep up with the huge demand of work; with construction sites, house builds and highways still a hub of activity.

But what’s happened to engineering? With the number of new engineering apprentices continuing to fall nationally, has the engineering industry fallen fowl of the pandemic and more importantly, can it recover?

Fe news recently said: “A widening STEM skills gap is nothing new and has only become more apparent with the pandemic. If anything, we are now even further away from the well publicised 1.8m shortfall of new engineers needed by 2025.”

So… is it a case of now or never for more businesses to step up and share the burden of responsibility in this well respected and much needed industry?

Mark Knight, Head of School for Engineering apprenticeships says: “One of the biggest issues facing the engineering industry is the lack of newly skilled, developing engineers and this has never been more apparent than it is now. Since the pandemic began, we’ve seen a steady decline in new engineering apprentices coming through, a notion I recognise is shared nationally.”

He continues: “The older generation of engineers have a real responsibility. Their wealth of skills, knowledge and experiences are desperately needed to be passed down to the next generation, and the best way to do this is to hire apprentices who can learn on the job.

“And schools, colleges and universities – we all need to work with these employers to fuel the pipeline and help grow and sustain the young engineers of the future.”

Chris Huntbatch, Operations Manager at Premier Hose Technologies, says: “We started our apprenticeship programme back in 2014 as part of a larger restructure of the business, to bring through young dynamic people capable of pushing the business forward. To date we have had 13 apprentices – 11 of whom have gone on to the stay in full time positions within the company.

“The apprenticeship programme has transformed our recruitment policy. We no longer look to external candidates to fill vacancies. Hiring apprentices has been a lifeline for us, but at the same time, has allowed us to train young, engineers of the future. ”

Mark adds: “STEM apprentices continue to be a focal point at Preston’s College, and we work with some of the best engineering organisations here in the region. It’s important businesses help provide young people with a platform to learn through real life client work, but also to give them the skills, knowledge and confidence to grow.”

Between April 1st and September 2021, hiring an apprentice will see employers receive up to £4,000 through a government initiative which was introduced early in the pandemic, to offer a lifeline to businesses looking to rebuild and recover.

For more information about hiring an apprentice in engineering please contact our Employer Engagement and Apprenticeship Specialist Habib on t: 01772 225742 m: 07971512591 e: hshama@preston.ac.uk

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