Are your expectations too high? Firms must look for potential greatness in apprentices

Yet, many companies in the industry are still sending out distress calls and hoping for the best – instead of taking control and ensuring they have a pipeline of skilled apprentices.

In the annual Institution of Engineering and Technology skills survey, it’s been revealed that employers feel the skill levels of recruits do not meet expectations – representing a perceived skills gap for the ninth year in succession. However, maybe business leaders just need to see beyond the CV.

I believe firms should stop expecting young people to arrive “ready” to suit their individual business needs. Instead, they should be looking for potential greatness in candidates, which they can develop over time while teaching specific requirements as part of an apprenticeship.

Why should firms bother? Well, by plugging these skill gaps in the engineering sector, companies have the potential to generate an extra £27bn per year – so in terms of business planning it’s in your best interests to invest in the vital skills needed to make the business go further.

Likewise, the economic benefits of creating a more “highly skilled” workforce has the potential to reach £140bn by 2050.

The UK government has recognised this and, as a result, has pledged £30m to not only develop engineering skills in smaller companies but to help encourage more women into engineering, since only 12.9 per cent of applicants to engineering degree courses in 2012/13 were female.

Read more from National Apprenticeship Week 2016:

A large part of this encouragement boils down to actually promoting what a career in engineering has to offer and highlighting the range of career paths available in today’s economy for engineers.

Additionally, it’s also important to demonstrate that training is on-hand to develop interest into skills, and skills into expertise via apprenticeship programmes.

I honestly believe apprentices are the lifeblood of business and fundamental to its success. And in the current and future market, where there are constant new innovations and demand is growing, the workforce is our most valuable asset.

From learner to master: Six famous UK leaders that started off as apprentices

If I was starting out now I know I’d be looking for an apprenticeship, so I’m committed to putting the time and effort into recruiting and training apprentices.

For all of those who currently aren’t supporting apprenticeships, please remember: having a pipeline of skilled workers ready to go is extremely important because we’re not only plugging the gap and helping to develop the futures of young people, but we’re securing our own.

If you’re interested in changing your recruitment approach, don’t miss these five recommendations for future-proofing apprenticeships in your business.

Estelle Brachlianoff is the senior EVP at Veolia UK & Ireland, a provider of waste, water and energy management services

Image: Shutterstock

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