Apprenticeships give consultants access to new pools of talent

Sheila Hoile

It is National Apprenticeship Week and this quote from ACE chief executive Nelson Ogunshakin says most clearly to me why consultancy practices need to support the drive to bring young people into the profession through such apprenticeships.

Nelson says: “It is clear to me that the optimism of ACE member companies, large and small, is tempered by a concern that they are finding it difficult and expensive to recruit and retain the highly skilled staff they need to deliver their projects.

“With an ageing workforce and a potential shortage of graduates the situation is only going to get worse.

“The sector as a whole urgently needs to find new ways to access and train the next generation of professional engineers. New apprenticeships open up routes for a pool of talent previously harder to tap.”

TAC company partners: Aecom, Arup, Atkins, BDP, Capita Symonds, Clancy Consulting, Crofton Design, CH2MHill, Hyder Consulting, Jacobs Engineering, Mott MacDonald, Mouchel, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Peter Brett Associates, Tony Gee & Partners, Troup Bywaters & Anders, URS, Waterman, WSP Group

Apprenticeships are usually seen as a training route for those wanting to go into the construction trades but increasingly consultants are looking to recruit straight from school and put their new staff through apprenticeship schemes to train them to technician level and beyond.

The Technician Apprenticeship Consortium (TAC) was created in 2010 with just six employers and eight apprentices.  Since then it has become a highly credible and proactive professional group with 19 employer members (see list) at national level and many more at local level. The Consortium created 200 apprentice vacancies in 2013 alone, making a total of over 400 apprentices in training at 10 colleges across the UK. 

Of the 19 consultancy firms 18 have so far signed up to provide core funds for TAC for the next three years. Local groups working with the colleges continue to be responsible for the day to day detail of the programmes making sure that they meet the needs and expectation of the companies and the apprentices.

It’s free to belong to a local group and, via the colleges, companies can find apprentices using the National Apprenticeship Service and its free Apprentice Vacancy Matching Service. You can find out more about the colleges and the scheme at www.tacnet.org.uk/home

We were delighted to see the achievements of TAC recognised by the recent cross party Parliamentarians Inquiry “No more lost generations: creating construction jobs for young people” led by Nick Raynsford MP and Lord Richard Best.  And we echo its concern at the waste of untapped talent which, if recruited and trained by the companies, could help meet the need for future high level technical skills.

 Nick Raynsford called for “more imagination, more leadership and more commitment to training young people”. TAC has shown that over the last four years, and this is recognised as TAC is a finalist in the Building Awards 2014 for Training Initiative of the Year.


What TAC is already doing to meet the recommendations of the cross parliamentary inquiry


Improved careers advice and work with schools

In 2013 TAC successfully completed a Royal Academy of Engineering project  which looked at using apprenticeships as a means of providing an alternative work based route to a career as a professional engineer.  The project resulted in “Apprentice recruitment – accessing untapped talent, a good practice guide for employers and professional institutions.” The report can be downloaded from the TAC website www.tacnet.org.uk .  The research done as part of the project showed that those most affected by the lack of well-informed careers advice were those from ethnic minority and disadvantaged backgrounds where there was no family history of engineering or ability to help with applications and interview skills.   As a result of the project 15 young people from ethnic minority and socially disadvantaged backgrounds have started apprenticeships in London out of a total recruitment of 58 apprentices.


Making it easier to become an apprentice

Through its engagement programme in London TAC members, working with the Construction Youth Trust, provided information, guidance and support for those young people wishing to apply for apprenticeship positions.  Without that many would not have applied.  TAC is building on the experience to develop support mechanisms and materials that are more widely available.


Training linked to the job

The consortium members have collaborated on the development of apprenticeship qualifications in Civil and Building Services Engineering that meet the needs of the company as well as those of UKSPEC for Engineering Technician registration and membership of the relevant professional engineering institution.  The first 5 TAC apprentices have achieved EngTech TMICE status and received their certificates from Geoff French, President of ICE at a ceremony on 14 February.  Similar qualifications for Transport Planning and Rail Design Technicians are in development.


Public sector procurement

The impetus for the establishment of the consortium was a requirement of the Transport for London Engineering and Project Management Framework that companies had to accept the GLA Strategic Labour Needs and Training commitment which included a target for recruiting apprentices.  From that small beginning has grown the thriving and well-respected organisation we see today.


Sheila Hoile is TAC project manager