Sharon met with Sarah in Parliament, to hear first-hand her experience of being a Business Apprentice and to celebrate National Apprenticeship Week 2018, which runs from 5 to 9 March.
Co-ordinated by the National Apprenticeship Service, National Apprenticeship Week 2018 is the 11th annual week-long celebration of apprenticeships in England and is designed to celebrate apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses, local communities and the wider economy.
During the Week employers and apprentices from across England will come together to celebrate the success of apprenticeships whilst encouraging even more people to choose an apprenticeship as the pathway to a great career.
“It is great to meet apprentices here in Parliament. Apprenticeships are so important to those undertaking them – giving them the skills they need to succeed in life and in a role they want to progress in – and to employers, giving them the opportunity to mould and shape the workforce they need.
“I am delighted to support National Apprenticeship Week this year, and pay tribute to employers who are contributing to local economies through apprenticeships whilst demonstrating that apprenticeships work for individuals, employers, and the community.’’
During National Apprenticeship Week, Sharon was honoured to open Unipres' new Training Academy.
You can read Sharon's speech below.
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
Thank you for inviting me to be here today to mark the opening of a fantastic new facility that will kick start the careers of young people wishing to enter into engineering, for generations to come.
High-quality apprenticeships are a vital way to help young people take their first steps into working life, and offer many young people the chance to earn and learn at the same time. That is why I am always delighted when local businesses in our community provide young people with these opportunities; Unipres has a long history of doing so.
We all know it, but young people are the future. Companies like Unipres who invest in the future are not only doing right by young people in the area, but by themselves as a business, as they build a strong and sustainable future.
Today's opening is about just that. It’s about creating a space that will strengthen Unipres’ team, and one that will also create so many opportunities for young people in and around Sunderland.
Nationally we have seen a real push for apprenticeships, and this has spurred on the more forward-thinking companies to look at new ways of growing their own talent.
That is why it is excellent to see Unipres tap into this national issue with the opening of their training academy, which will not only prepare themselves to manufacture more than just car parts, but also invest more in the workforce here in Sunderland.
Businesses are fuelled by people – while machines and facilities are one part of the picture, critically it all relies upon people, skilled people, to drive business and to innovate and create.
Sunderland has that, based in part on what I believe to be the innate abilities of the people of Sunderland when it comes to manufacturing and engineering, and also the dedication of local businesses to invest in the workforce in our area.
Combine both of our natural skills and industry-led training and you have a recipe for success, and today’s opening celebrates that.
Unipres working hand in hand with the city's college and the city council to deliver this Training Academy will be a great success for our City, and I am proud to have this initiative based in my constituency.
Sunderland College, and the FE sector at large, has faced incredible scrutiny from Government over the last year or so, but its role in bringing through talented young people who are ready to take the reins from the leaders of today, cannot be underestimated.
It is heartening to see a local business that has a commitment to this city is also reflecting a commitment to localism in its work with the education sector, and I am sure it will yield a strong partnership for many years to come. We have some tremendous assets in the city, and we must encourage them to work together to deliver bigger, better things for the next generation.
The automotive sector presents a huge opportunity for Sunderland. Despite the challenges that lie ahead as we begin our exit from the European Union, we still have a strong unique selling point as an attractive and flourishing automotive hub.
What this academy does is give Sunderland a vote of confidence, which will send a clear message to other businesses that may be looking at this part of the world. What this message says is: we are open for business.
Pair this message with the planned developments, such as the IAMP not far from here, then there is a world of opportunity out there for our City.
But the Government must make sure that this work done at a local level is supported and sustainable by ensuring what goes on nationally complements this work, but also local work is not hindered as we enter the negotiations to exit the EU and then leave the EU.
As the local Member of Parliament, I am fully committed to supporting the manufacturing sector here in Sunderland – as I am sure we all are in this room today.
Today is a fantastic step for the UK automotive sector, the North East, and especially for Sunderland. It’s a credit to Unipres, and to the skills of the team at the company, who have helped create the level of confidence needed for this fantastic business to continue with its investment in our great City.
I am both proud and delighted to be here today at the opening of Unipres’ Training Academy. Congratulations and I know it will go from strength to strength.
Sharon Hodgson MPs report - Apr-May 2016 - number 85
Read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Apr-May 2016 - number 85
Sharon speaking at a business event on apprenticeships and social value 29.04.16
Image copyright Henk Geertsema ACIM, 2016
Sharon was invited to speak at a business event in Sedgefield titled 'Competing for Social Value in Procurement Contracts', along with Labour MEP, Jude Kirton-Darling, about stretching social value by businesses and companies when recruiting apprentices. Sharon spoke about the need to address the issue of young people being left in a constant cycle of check-list training courses or short-term apprenticeships with no prospects of a job at the end of it, and the despondency both can have on the life chances of young people and the need for businesses and training providers to recognise the social value they can have in creating a diverse and skilled workforce.
You can read Sharon's speech below:
Firstly, I want to thank Stephanie and Rachel for inviting me to come and speak to you today.
Social value has become a much more important part of public procurement in recent years, with businesses and organisations who bid for public contracts now needing to consider how they can improve the economic, social and environmental well-being of their local area.
This is something I have worked on in recent months with Rachel Lumsden, Stephanie Smith and other experts and organisations within my local authority area in Sunderland, especially when it comes to the social impact of apprenticeships for young people.
In latest guidance by the Government to authorities and businesses on procurement of contracts, it stated that contracts worth £10 million or more, and last for 12 months or longer, should support the upskilling of their workforce and the wider community, along with working towards the Government’s ambitious, but noble, target of creating three million apprenticeships by 2020.
Organisations here in the room today may never be competing for contracts worth £10 million or more, but this doesn’t mean that the principles of ensuring that we work towards upskilling our workforce - a value held across the board within the business community – is not still worth pursuing and I know that many here today, will agree and already champion this belief.
However, there is always more that can be done and this is what I wish to talk to you all about today.
Apprenticeships unlock success
It is undeniable the impact that a high-quality apprenticeship can have on the lives of young people in providing them with skills for life, along with the chance to earn whilst they learn and move on in life with a sustainable career path – something we all wish for our children.
As a region, we pride ourselves on our strong manufacturing and industrial heritage and the entwined appreciation for just how important an apprenticeship can be to getting on in life.
It is important that when a business provides an apprenticeship to a young person, that we don’t, after six months, see them tossed out on to the street with no job to go into and that they have just been making up the numbers to ensure targets set out by the Government are met.
This is something I know all too well from personal experience, when during the 1980s, I saw my two brothers go through a turnstile of training programmes, they were called YOPs and YTSs back then, but when it came to the end of the six-month period, they were told: ‘There’s no job here for you’ and they would end up on yet another scheme, and see this repeated time and time again.
My youngest brother did four YTS’s and went from an eager 16-year-old dreaming of being a mechanic to an angry disillusioned 18-year-old on the dole with no prospects. It took a number of years to recover from that and he eventually got his chance when thankfully his best friend’s dad, who laid marble floor tiles as a sub-contractor in airports and shopping malls, gave him a job labouring for him.
This was just the break my brother, probably aged 20 or 21 by then, needed. He went from strength to strength, learnt the trade, became a floorer himself and is now a director of the company. Now, that’s the difference giving a young person a chance makes to their life. If only those 4 companies which let him go after 6 months had given him a chance! Their loss!
This is why I am passionate about the recognition of the social value and impact that businesses can have on the lives of young people.
If we take the message that came out of National Apprenticeship Week last month, of: the positive impact apprenticeships can have on our economy, but also on a more personal level with the social mobility that can come with undertaking an apprenticeship, it is understandable just how far we have come since the 1980s.
We can’t just celebrate apprenticeships for one week alone though, we need to do this day in, day out, by actively working towards improving the quality and access to apprenticeships on offer to our young people.
That is why there is still more to do, and this is a message that I hope will come out of today.
For many young people in our region there is no hope of them securing an apprenticeship, with the Government’s requirements that young people must have a Grade C in English and Maths.
Whilst it is important that we continue to aspire to pushing the outcomes of young people achieving an A* to C in the core subjects, we have to realise that this is not always possible for all young people, especially some with SEND.
There are many skilled apprenticeships which understandably need to have the grades in order to complete the work needed of them to a high-standard, such as using high level thinking, maths skills such as algebra etc, or complex concepts.
But should a young person aspiring to do an apprenticeship working in an office, with the functional mathematical and literacy skills to do the job, be excluded from this life changing apprenticeship that is open to their peers.
Or excluding a young person who is good with their hands from an apprenticeship as a construction worker or a welder, because they didn’t get their C in Maths and English, although may have plenty other GCSE A – C, I think this is wrong when they can learn all the functional skills needed to do this job whilst working on site.
For many young people applying what they are trying to learn in the classroom to the actual life scenarios they are now in can make the penny drop to help them develop skills they never thought they would have, with some then reaching the magic C in English and Maths during their apprenticeship. Others will bring their Maths and English up to the functional level. They just need the chance, their break.
Recent figures I obtained through a Parliamentary Question to the Department for Education found that 42% of young people in the North East by the age of 16 were not achieving at least a Grade C in English and Maths.
Many of those young people may get the required grades the following year, or the year after that, yet what is deeply concerning is that because of this block imposed on the entry requirements for an apprenticeship we are seeing some young people being placed onto remedial course after remedial course, so that training providers can tick a box to say they are supporting young people to achieve their needed qualifications – and in some cases, no real progress is ever made. With the young person becoming increasingly disillusioned and losing all hope of ever getting the chance to get on, get a break, to start their life as an adult.
This harks back to what I mentioned earlier with my brother’s experiences in the 1980s, and the danger of creating a despondent and disengaged generation of young people who are being locked out of achieving their true potential because they have not been given the opportunities to do so. Not able to even get over the first hurdle.
What can businesses do
That is why it is up to businesses, such as yourselves here today, to tap into this idea of social value and ensure that young people are given the opportunities they need in life to change their lives for the better.
To do this, there needs to be scrutiny and creativity driving forward how we look at the way we recruit apprentices and always keeping in mind the idea of: ‘what am I giving back to my local community?’
One way of doing this is by looking at the processes undertaken by training companies and holding them to account on how they are recruiting and training the apprenticeship workforce in our region, and who better to do this than those who use their services – that is all of you.
Secondly, speak to them and find out more about their recruitment procedures and have the important discussions about how making social value a central ethos to your apprenticeship recruitment is important to you and your organisation and challenging them to do more.
These are two important ways of taking this issue further.
There is so much more we can do to ensure we unlock the doors of opportunity to the widest possible cross-section of society, and allow those young people in our local area to have the best chances in life through the social mobility an apprenticeship can have on their life.
Thank you for listening.
News from Westminster
Read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Mar-Apr 2016 - number 84
Sharon Hodgson with Unipres Staff, Gatsby Project team; George Ritchie, Chair of the North East Apprenticeship Ambassador Network and Associate Director PX group and pupils and staff from Link School and Biddick Academy - 14th March 2016
Image Copyright: Unipres 2016.
For National Apprenticeship Week 2016, Sharon was invited to Unipres in Sunderland to welcome the beginning of the week, meet with apprentices and have a tour of the Unipres factory. In her speech, Sharon spoke about the importance of apprenticeships to helping young people reach their potential in life and recognised the work done by Unipres in Sunderland over their 27 years based in the City to support the local economy and workforce.
You can read Sharon's speech here below:
Thank you for inviting me to join you for today’s launch of National Apprenticeships Week celebrations here at Unipres.
It is wonderful that National Apprenticeship Week, which started in 2008, is now in its ninth year where we continue to showcase the positive impact apprentices have on our economy, whilst celebrating the tens of thousands who are currently developing their skills, expertise and knowledge through an apprenticeship, may it be in nuclear technology, fashion design, or of course, car manufacturing.
After the success of last year’s celebrations which saw 600 events held right across the country and businesses pledging to increase apprenticeship numbers by 23,000, I hope this year’s events will build on those achievements ensuring we reaffirm our commitment to apprenticeships as a vehicle to achieve great success in life.
This year’s theme for National Apprenticeships Week is all about rising to the top and recognising the importance an apprenticeship can have on an individual achieving their potential, by learning and earning at the same time.
This is something which is at the very heart of the business ethos of Unipres, who for the last 26 years, have been an important employer here on Wearside, whilst developing a close relationship with Nissan to whom they supply parts for the cars manufactured just up the road.
Unipres’ clear commitment to Sunderland’s local workforce is shown through their continued investment into training local people, providing sustainable and high-quality job opportunities and nurturing a sense of pride in the work that goes on here in Sunderland.
In recent years Unipres has invested heavily into their factory here on Wearside with capital investment of over £40 million between 2012 and 2013 in preparation for the increased production at Nissan, and more recently Renault.
This led to an additional investment of nearly £13 million to install two new presses – which went live just before Christmas and I hope we will get to see them in action later this morning – this created 22 additional new jobs at the factory to work on the production of supplies for both Nissan and Honda’s assembly plant in Swindon, along with exporting to international markets including mainland Europe and Russia.
Parallel to all of this investment into the future of the business, there has been just as much investment into the future of the workforce where over the last year there has been a doubling in the number of apprentices based at the factory.
In total, Unipres now has over 60 apprentices who are studying for their qualifications in engineering, electrical engineering and die and tool-making whilst training hands-on here in order to reinforce what they learn in the classroom.
For any of those young men or women here today, I wish you all the very best with your studies and future career success here at Unipres.
But as the leadership here know the work to inspire the next generation coming into the workforce starts way before they join the business as an apprentice. That is why Unipres has supported an excellent initiative, called Industrial Cadets, which aims to spark the imagination and minds of young people about the career possibilities within engineering and the sometimes unknown career success that can come with starting a high-quality apprenticeship.
That is why it is wonderful that this year’s National Apprenticeship Week celebrations in the North-East have been launched today here at Unipres – showing appreciation of the leadership of Plant Director, John Cruddace, and the hard-work and dedication of everyone who works here.
This week is all about celebration and marking the importance of apprenticeships, and I wish all the success in the world to this year’s National Apprenticeship Week and hope that events like this inspire the young people attending to start an apprenticeship so they too can achieve their full potential and reach the top of their chosen career.