Apprenticeships - good or bad?

  chub_tor 19:23 PM 11 Mar 13
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David Cameron has pledged to make it the "new norm" for school leavers to take an apprenticeship or go to university. says Sky News

So I was wondering if this is a harking back to the "good old days" that I enjoyed back in 1957 when I left High School with two A Levels and a choice of apprenticeship or university - or is it a political expediency to boost the numbers of those counted as employed?

Apprenticeships as I knew them were for 5 years and mine taught me all the basic skills that I would need to become skilled in my chosen career. I spent 6 months in a training centre learning how to use drills, mills, centre and capstan lathes, how to cut, shape, bend and weld sheet metal as well as how to solder (with a gas heated soldering iron) components and wiring looms - all this before I was let loose for four and a half years in the various factory departments working alongside skilled piece-workers. And that was just during the day, for nights were spent at the local technical college as I slogged my way through ONC and HNC before I was given my signed indentures.

The skills I got were hard earned at £7.50per week out of which I had to pay for my digs as I was living away from home, but those skills are with me today and I regret not one jot passing up University to take up an apprenticeship but I wonder if the new modern apprenticeships will have the rigour of those some 50 years ago and does the youth of today have the stomach for 5 years working for next to nothing in the hope of a better career in the future? We knew that at the end of our training unless we did something really stupid there was a a job for us at the end of it, but can employers offer that kind of security today?

  Fruit Bat /\0/\ 20:07 PM 11 Mar 13

In my previous job I was responsible for interviewing employing and overseeing apprentices, the the job was given to an outside firm (college)

I was available to apprentices at all times to sort out problems

I wonder if the new modern apprenticeships will have the rigour of those some 50 years ago

No not even the rigours of 15 yrs ago ..

An assessor comes in every 6 weeks or so from college doesn't have a clue what the job actually entails so portfolios were signed off by the assessor with some glaring errors in them.

does the youth of today have the stomach for 5 years working for next to nothing

Wages are quite good nowadays compared to what we got and the apprenticeship is usually over in about 3-3.5 yrs.

A lot of the skills we learnt just aren't needed nowadays .. who scrapes bearings or packs glands / seals any more, I teach people how to use diagnostic programs now :0)

We knew that at the end of our training unless we did something really stupid there was a a job for us at the end of it, but can employers offer that kind of security today?

I'm afraid that option no longer applies as a certainty but obviously employers are planning ahead when thy consider numbers to be trained and of course would like to recoup the cost of the training (some could be recoup fom government grants)

  oresome 20:24 PM 11 Mar 13

I'm sure there is still a place for some apprenticeship schemes but many craft jobs have been de-skilled over the years by technological advances and a push to reduce manufacturing costs, so a five year apprenticeship is probably over the top in many cases.

On the other hand, some jobs have changed beyond all recognition..........a car mechanic now needs an understanding of complex electronic systems that would not have been envisaged ten or more years ago and a modern gas boiler is probably beyond the understanding of many traditional plumbers.

I'm sure we now have some square pegs in round holes due to the nature of the job changing in a relatively short time.

  chub_tor 21:04 PM 11 Mar 13

It's true that job skills have changed since my apprenticeship days. I started out as a circuit designer using valve technology, had to learn about designing with transistors, then integrated circuits and finally microprocessors and of course nowadays it is more about software and digital circuits rather than analogue design. But at the end of the day machines are involved for although components may be picked and placed they are still moved by a physical mechanism. Dies for plastic mouldings have to be machined prototype models have to be built etc. So where are the toolmakers being trained? Someone has to design, manufacture and maintain machines - where for example does Toyota or Ford get their skilled machinists? Do they come from an apprenticeship pool or can it be that they are informally trained on the job after graduating from University? I am so out of touch with industry today......

  Bing.alau 21:11 PM 11 Mar 13

Painting and decorating is probably one trade which is pretty much the same as it was 40 to 50 years ago. I can't think of another.... Electricians maybe, but there are big advances in that I suppose?

When I left school apprenticeships were for seven years. I think the biggest employer in this area (Liverpool) was probably Cammel Lairds Shipbuilding yards in Birkenhead. It still takes apprentices on today I believe, but not many. Oh! a big advantage of apprenticeships in my day was that you were deferred from being called up for military service, until you were twenty one and then they grabbed you and off you went to die for your country. That's if you were unlucky enough to be of age before the war ended.

I left school in 1944 so was too young to be called up and was too thick to be an apprentice. So I got a job as what was termed a Fitter's Help in a place repairing those grey "POOL" petrol delivery wagons. Need I say that my jobs were usually the dirty jobs laying underneath the wagons doing an engineer's job. I'm still pretty nifty with nuts and bolts and know how engines were designed in those days. I wouldn't have a clue about them now. I certainly couldn't get underneath one now. If I did I would never get back up again. Funny thing was I loved the job and think I would have made a good engineer if I had the right education. Too late to start now methinks. We also worked a 48 hour week in those days and only got two weeks holiday per year. Pay was four shillings a day, 28 bob a week and I had the responsibility of opening up in the mornings by 07.30 and locking up in the evening at 17.30. Keeper of the keys at fourteen years of age. Nice to be trusted of course, but how many lads of that age would work under those conditions today. Then again there were lads with much worse jobs such as down the mines. Glad I didn't have to do that.

  Fruit Bat /\0/\ 21:40 PM 11 Mar 13

skilled machinists are mostly trained in a college nowadays

No winding a tool onto a piece of metal for shaping .. machines are programmed, the machinist selects the tools - fastens them into the tool head - programs the machine - then just supervises it while it does the job, stepping in only to stop the machine and fit a new tool if one breaks or wears down too far.

Throw a lump (10tonne) of roughly forged metal into a machine at one end and out comes a fully machined (to within microns) crankshaft for a 20 cylinder 4000HP engine at the other.

  chub_tor 22:03 PM 11 Mar 13

Accepting what you say about how the skill has been taken out of the machining of metals then what jobs is Cameron hoping to have apprenticeships for? Is it just for the building trade? Has British industry really fallen that far?

  wee eddie 22:07 PM 11 Mar 13

I think that it can be assumed that Apprenticeships are suitable for some jobs and not for others.

While the Building Trade may, may, become automated, but I doubt that Factory Built houses will really flood the market, there will always be jobs for Plumbers, Electricians, Plasterers, Painters and Decorators in the replacement market, and these are always better done by a skilled operative.

Engineering has changed and Motor Mechanics now rely on a laptop to tell them what is wrong, they still need to be adept with the tools required to do the job, so there is room for Apprentiseships, but 5 years is far too long.

The Wages may be low but they exceed those of someone at University.

I think that the biggest mistake, made in the last few years, has been the attempt to persuade us that learning a skill was Degree material.

  Quickbeam 22:10 PM 11 Mar 13

Rolls Royce apprenticeships are among the best in the world, just like they're engines.

  Fruit Bat /\0/\ 22:29 PM 11 Mar 13

My Brother in law has a degree and designs engines for Rolls Royce but I wouldn't let him loose with a spanner screwdriver or hammer in his hands he'll do a lot of damage :0)

Manage to blow the main fuse (80A) in his house one day trying to change a socket :0( (blew a hole in the wall)

Known a few other people like this, got in all in the head but nothing comes down through to the hands.

Had problems trying to get managers to see that qualifications don't always equate to hand skills while interviewing for apprenticeships. Need to look for two levels .. those that make good skilled hands on men who are happy to stay on the shop floor getting the production done and those who have the extra to step up into management.

We would interview approx 30 out of 300 applicants for 6 jobs 4 expected to stay on shop floor, 2 who we suspected would make it to the next level.

  chub_tor 09:35 AM 12 Mar 13

Rolls Royce apprenticeships have always been highly admired and they, along with Jaguar, were always the benchmark for an automotive engineer. The comment that "he was trained at Rolls Royce/Jaguar" was a real badge of honour.

My Brother in law has a degree and designs engines for Rolls Royce but I wouldn't let him loose with a spanner screwdriver or hammer in his hands he'll do a lot of damage :0)

So presumably he didn't go through the Rolls Royce apprenticeship route then?

We would interview approx 30 out of 300 applicants for 6 jobs 4 expected to stay on shop floor, 2 who we suspected would make it to the next level.

I did my apprenticeship with The Marconi Company (Marconi Wireless and Telegraph Co. as it was then). Each year they recruited in four bands - Craft Apprentices and Technician Apprentices who started at age 16 and maybe had some O Levels, probably had attended a Technical College but had shown at least some aptitude for working with their hands. They would be expected to stay on the Shop Floor as machinists, wiremen, etc and if they showed some skill might become a Foreman but would probably remain a blue collar worker. Next were the Student Apprentices who did a "thin sandwich" course that was basically 6 months on the job followed by 6 months at college - they would be expected to get HNC as a minimum or HND if they were clever enough. Most would become designers, draughtsmen, maybe a Section Leader. Finally there were the Graduate Apprentices on a "thick sandwich" - one year at the works, three years at University followed by a final year at the factory. These were groomed to be the senior managers.

I have no idea how many potential apprentices that Marconi considered but the annual intake for all these groups was roughly 150 - 200 each year, the bulk being Craft and Technician, with around 30-35 Students (I was one of these) and a maximum of 10 Graduates. So at any one time there were around 800 apprentices in the Marconi system. We even have our own website for the Marconi Old Fellows Society which is run out of Australia by a student apprentice who started in the same year as me.

Fallout was around 10% in all of the groups usually because the apprentice found that the repetitive life in industry was not for them but occasionally because they couldn't reach the standards required. I know of only one student who was fired and that was because he couldn't keep his sticky fingers off all the tempting goodies that were to be found in the stores.

I still haven't seen any details of how Cameron's new apprenticeship initiative is expected to work, if any of you can point me in that direction I would be most appreciative.

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