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A new parliamentary committee report on skills, which urges the government to ‘prioritise’ getting young people to take up apprenticeships in industry sectors with skills shortages, such as electrotechnical, has been backed by the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA).

According to a recent ECA survey, almost half of electrotechnical businesses (47 per cent) expect to face a skills shortage in 2018. Yet the report comments that ‘the current balance of [apprenticeship funding] provision is skewed towards sectors with low wage returns and few skills shortages’.

In addition, the report states that ‘there remains a lack of clarity about long-term funding arrangements for non-apprenticeship levy paying employers’. The ECA has already raised this issue with Skills Minister Rob Halfon MP due to its potential impact on SMEs within the sector.

ECA Director of Employment and Skills Alex Meikle commented: “It’s widely accepted that engineering disciplines, such as electrotechnical, face an ongoing skills shortage. This threatens to derail broader government efforts to develop a highly skilled, highly paid workforce.

“The ECA strongly supports proposals to target apprenticeships towards core industry sectors facing a shortfall. In addition, we urge the government to ensure SMEs have the funding they need to train up the electricians and engineers of tomorrow.”

The apprenticeships report was compiled by a joint inquiry of the House of Commons ‘Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee’ and the ‘Education Committee’, led by Hartlepool MP Iain Wright and Stroud MP Neil Carmichael. The report was published today (31 March).

Last year the ECA provided written evidence to the inquiry, which stated that government apprenticeship funding policy ‘risked...driving investment in short duration, lower value apprenticeships which are easier to deliver’, rather than ‘technical, longer duration, higher value apprenticeships’.

Following this submission, three ECA representatives gave verbal evidence to the inquiry – including apprentices Niall Watson of Derry Building Services and Charlotte Burton of NG Bailey. The apprentices described how they got into their careers, noting that this happened despite receiving limited technical careers advice while at school.