ENGINEERING employers in Kirklees have pledged their backing for apprenticeships as fears grow nationally over training budgets.
Figures from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, show that apprenticeships are on the increase with 442,700 courses starting in the 2010/11 academic year.
However, there are concerns about the future of apprenticeships as businesses evaluate their spending on training.
Sarah Thwaites, deputy chief executive of Financial Skills Partnership, said: “The steady increase in the number of people beginning apprenticeships is encouraging but, worryingly, some businesses plan to reduce the number of apprentices they take on next year.
“If the number of available apprenticeships were to regress over the next year, the skills picture and the jobs market would be severely tarnished.
“In order for young people to continue to secure jobs in their chosen profession, there must be a wider range of courses, opportunities and career entry routes available from schools, colleges, universities, training providers and employers.
“This will address the changing landscape in further and higher education and take into account the different ways people are embarking on the career ladder.”
Among local employers engineering firms David Brown Gear Systems and Cummins Turbo Technologies have been stalwart supporters of apprenticeships.
Kate Norman, human resources director at David Brown, said that the company had 32 apprentices on its books and would look to recruit a similar number next year.
“We go into schools and promote apprenticeships,” she said. “One of our senior engineers started as an apprentice on the shopfloor before moving to the design office, gaining a degree and becoming a senior engineer.”
David Brown also has a gear academy to train aspiring young employees and believes in older workers passing on their skills to new arrivals.
David Farrell, training and development leader at Cummins Turbo Technologies, said the Turnbridge-based company had a 57-year history of apprenticeships and continued to recruit each year.
“Cummins recognises the importance of apprentices to the future of the business,” he said. “We offer a closely managed programme of development for young employees who come up through the ranks understanding our global markets and how we engineer the Holset turbocharger.
“We are also a partner in the Huddersfield Engineering Group promoting apprenticeships in the local area and are looking to expand the apprenticeship scheme across our business beyond engineering.”
David Toulcher, skills training manager at Kirkdale Industrial Training Services in Brighouse, said engineering firms continued to support apprenticeships.
KITS, based at Armytage Road, has more than 80 learners on this year’s engineering programme and all are expected to be placed with employers across Kirklees, Calderdale, Wakefield, Leeds and Bradford.
“Some of them have come with jobs and for others we are finding employers as we go along,” said Mr Toulcher. “We have taken on more trainees that we usually do.
“Employers in the engineering sector recognise that they have to look at recruiting young people as there is an ageing workforce in this sector.”
Steven Leigh, head of policy for the Lockwood-based Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said employers backed apprenticeships, but were struggling to recruit given the tough economic climate.
“The larger companies have generally been able to maintain some kind of apprenticeship programme,” he said.
“There has been no change in the attitude of employers, but the current climate doesn’t lend itself to recruitment by smaller enterprises.”