Leading lifting equipment specialist, Konecranes, is aiming to make its voice heard when it comes to promoting the need for continued advancements in apprenticeship provision in this country. A long-term advocate of leading industry players investing in a combination of theoretical classroom and practical on-the-job training, Konecranes aims to do everything it can to promote the benefits of apprenticeship schemes for everyone concerned – the individual, organisation, Government and society in general.
Indeed such is the passion for this kind of training and development within Konecranes here in the UK that it is reverberating across all levels of the business. As Pat Campbell, Konecranes' Director of Market Area – Europe West, states: "Modern apprenticeship schemes have, over the last three decades at least, been seen as the poor relation to what many deem is the career path holy grail – a straightforward university degree. And what has happened during this time? Not only have we seen a skills shortage develop that has become more of a cavernous void, it can be aligned in part to the demise of manufacturing here in the UK.
"What we want to show as living proof is that apprenticeship schemes are successful in not only creating highly-skilled, capable and intellectually gifted individuals that are of real benefit to a business, but that they create opportunities for real career progression and can help an individual go all the way to the top," he added.
Konecranes has the enviable record of having a 100% track record in ensuring that apprentices upon completion of their training go into a full time job position. This philosophy has always existed within the Konecranes group and is something that it is very protective of. As Konecranes' HR Director – Region Europe West, Karen Winfield injects: "At Konecranes it is not just about giving our apprentices a job at the end of their four-year training period, it's about putting them on a career path that can take them to the top of their profession. We have both senior managers and directors in our business that have gone through the apprenticeship programme in the past, so the scope for continued development not just here in the UK, but on a global basis, is very much a reality."
Konecranes' stance in the field of apprenticeship schemes is echoed by the thoughts and opinions of many leading authorities on the subject, none more so than the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development). Only recently did the CIPD's head of skills and policy campaign, Katerina Rudiger clearly outline their support for an accelerated programme. "The need for greater apprenticeship provision in the UK is clear.
The ambition to deliver two million apprenticeships to start over this Parliament is admirable, and we welcome the Government's success in delivering so many new starts to date. However, looking ahead, it is vital to continue to ensure that apprenticeships are high quality and responsive to the needs of employers. This will mean continuing to engage employers in developing training programmes for each of the apprenticeships frameworks, giving them the level of co-investment and the impetus they need to ensure that the training their apprentices receive benefits their organisation and the apprentices themselves. It will also be vital to ensure smaller employers are encouraged to provide more high-quality apprenticeships, and given the information and support they need to do so," she said.
It is against this backdrop that Konecranes is committed to investing in what is a robust and effective learning and training process. As Pat Campbell picks up: "Whilst many organisations probably and reluctantly have had to review numbers going through their schemes, the intake at Konecranes has remained pretty consistent throughout the recession. What is important is that an organisation such as ours not only has the necessary skills for today, but in five or 10 years time. Indeed this is something that we are evaluating on an almost constant basis."
This year, for example, Konecranes has already appointed 10 new apprentices, seven of whom have joined the service operation, the remaining three being located at the company's crane manufacturing plant in East Kilbride.
This year's successful applicants will attend colleges for off-the-job training, the aim being to achieve NVQ Level 2 PEO (Performance Engineering Operations). Subsequent training will then be in accordance with the company's existing apprenticeship programme. On completion of training, apprentices will be qualified as Service Technicians, with a BTEC Higher National Certificate in electrical and electronic engineering. And for those looking to progress still further, Konecranes will support additional education and training schemes, including the opportunity to embark on a degree course in certain aspects of engineering and business management.
As Karen Winfield adds: "Our apprentices not only benefit from access to outstanding learning opportunities, they are remunerated in the process for their efforts, whilst being eligible for a range of fringe benefits that an employer such as Konecranes is capable of offering. Should they then decide to progress to degree level, this delivers another significant advantage in that it is Konecranes who fund the process, so any form of student debt traditionally associated with a University degree is eliminated."
Concluding, Pat Campbell said: "When it comes to which route into a career is best, it is all about balance and assessing which one is most suitable for the individual in question. University degrees obviously have their place, but they are not for everyone.
What is important is being able to demonstrate to a prospective employer that the individual in question is not only academically capable but has the practical and social skills necessary to perform in the commercial world. Hence the reason why even before selection universities are today encouraging applicants to demonstrate some level of work experience relevant to the course of their choice. This is not rocket science, just common sense, and something that an increasing number of employers are looking for.
"The difference with apprentices is that most join an organisation at an early age, so employers can work with them and shape them from day one. In our eyes this is invaluable and a sure fire way of retaining their skills within the business in the long-term."