WorldSkills panel backs apprenticeships

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WorldSkills London played host to a question and answer panel session to discuss the importance of apprenticeships in the UK.

The panel consisted of a range of business leaders and education specialists, such as Nick Bradley, group director, City & Guilds. Bradley highlighted the need for schemes to evolve to withstand the current economic climate. "Apprenticeships are working," he noted. "They enable young people to enter employment and employers to get involved at a grass roots level. However, more needs to be done by the government to reduce the amount of red tape and bureaucracy, as well as minimising the complexity." Christine Gaskell, member of the board personnel, Bentley Motors added that there is a need for industry and academia to take a closer role. "Bentley works with a number of primary schools to explain engineering and how their studies will relate into the workplace," she explained. "We also plan to develop a programme where the unemployed can work alongside apprentices." But, Steve Holliday, chief executive, National Grid, believed that as well as encouraging children, it is equally as important to engage parents. "There is a problem with the way influential people are portrayed by the media," he said. "Pop stars and celebrities are seen as role models, but with more media engagement, this could be changed and put to a more practical practice. School teachers need to broaden their syllabus to explain how subjects such as maths and science translate into the real world and businesses need to get into schools to help paint young people's career paths." The need for businesses to push apprenticeships was endorsed by Terry Morgan CBE, chairman, Crossrail. "As employers, we all have a responsibility. Those companies that begrudgingly run apprenticeships are losing out and not getting the most from the schemes. The days of young people taking apprenticeships and staying with the company for a further 10 years are long gone. We must accept this and realise how important it is to invest in the overall future of skills. You get back what you put in and it's a win/win situation for everyone. I hope that WorldSkills highlights the potential of today's young people and that the legacy of the event continues." WorldSkills London 2011 is taking place at ExCeL, London until 8 October.