Apprenticeships are a great way to bring the sector the skills it needs, says Anne Milton MP

“An apprentice is a way for businesses to improve their skills base, attract diverse talent and encourage new ways of working. Last April we introduced the Apprenticeship Levy so employers could plug skills gaps, recruit new talent and improve the abilities of their current and future staff through work-based learning.

Under the levy, large employers – those with a pay bill of more than £3million – will pay 0.5% of their total wage bill to invest in training staff. Smaller employers do not pay the levy, and the government pays for 90% of the costs of their apprenticeship training and assessment. The employer only needs to find 10% of the cost. The changes we have introduced to the apprenticeship system mean that employers can invest in quality training for their apprentices.

Apprenticeships are a great way for people to get a career in the energy and utilities sector – and the chance to earn while they learn. There are now more opportunities than ever before to do apprenticeships in a huge range of professional and technical occupations all the way up to degree level. It gives people a clear route into long-term employment and choice if they do not want to take a purely academic route.

Sellafield, Severn Trent and National Grid are just some of the energy and utilities companies using apprenticeships to grow their business. These are jobs with real prospects that enable people to gain the essential skills they need for their career.

We want employers and their apprentices to know that they are getting high quality training. The Institute for Apprenticeships will make sure energy and utilities apprenticeships are of a high standard and that quality is maintained across the board. New apprenticeship standards recently introduced include power and utilities engineering, with many more in development to ensure diverse routes into the sector. We are working closely with employers who lead the developments of these standards to make sure we get the right training for the energy and utilities sector.

We recognise that the last year has been a period of significant change, and it will take time for employers to adjust. But we must not lose sight of why we introduced these reforms in the first place – to put quality at the heart of the apprenticeship programme and put control in the hands of employers.

To help this we are boosting investment in apprenticeships to £2.45 billion by 2019/20 and to reach 3 million apprenticeship starts in England by 2020. Since May 2015 there have been more than 1.2 million people starting an apprenticeship, which will provide each of them with the opportunity to gain the skills they need to get on in life. This is a fantastic achievement but only the start as we want to make sure all energy and utilities employers and businesses have the skilled workforce they need.”

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