Championing apprentices

29 November 2013
IET Communications team
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Lydia Feasey

Lydia Feasey, the IET's 2013 Apprentice of the Year.

Recent IET work to support and promote the vital role of apprentices.

An annual conference, involvement in a new government programme and a brand new award are just a few of the recent IET initiatives to support and promote the vital role of apprentices within society.


IET Apprenticeship Conference

The IET’s second annual Apprenticeship Conference was held on 17 October, bringing together approximately 90 attendees from industry, professional bodies and the Armed Forces.

The speakers included Glen Crocker from the National Apprenticeship Service and IET chief executive Nigel Fine, who focussed on how the Institution can support and champion apprentices. Keynote speaker Gordon Birtwistle MP also spoke passionately about his own personal route to engineering as an apprentice.

Nigel Fine said: “As we all know UK engineering and IT do suffer significantly from a skills shortage, particularly at technician level. There is demand for 69,000 people qualified to advanced apprentice level or higher each year and the sad fact is that we are only supplying 27,000.

“The apprenticeship route is certainly not the poor cousin of the academic route and it is likely to be an increasingly important route for the future.

“Engineering and IT technicians are vitally important to the UK and our economy. They have skills and expertise that this country needs to deliver 21st century systems, services and products. Technicians do not receive adequate recognition for the pivotal role they play in the work place and that’s a fact.”


Trailblazers initiative

It has also been announced that the IET will be taking a lead role within the UK Government’s new ‘Electro-technical Trailblazer’ apprenticeship initiative, which will develop standards for installation electricians and maintenance electricians.  

The IET’s director of membership and professional development, Michelle Richmond, said: “Professional bodies like the IET will play a crucial role in Trailblazers to ensure that achieving an apprenticeship signifies that an individual is ready to secure professional registration, such as Engineering Technician or ICT Technician where that is available."

Matthew Hancock, UK minister of state for skills and enterprise, said: “I am very pleased that the Institution of Engineering and Technology has chosen to be at the forefront of our apprenticeship reforms. This is great opportunity to be a Trailblazer, building on existing successes to lay the foundations for rigorous and easily understood apprenticeships that will help Britain compete in the global race.”


IET Apprentice of the Year Award

This year, for the first time, the IET presented an outstanding apprentice with an Apprentice of the Year Award – highlighting the growing importance of apprentices within engineering and technology.

Lydia Feasey, a mechanical technician at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE), received the award at the IET Achievement Awards ceremony on 20 November. Lydia completed her apprenticeship at the Joint European Torus, which is a fusion research project based at CCFE near Abingdon, Oxfordshire. The purpose of the facility is to develop fusion as a clean energy source for the future.

The award is part of the IET’s new Apprentice and Technician Awards scheme. The scheme aims to raise the profile of the good work that apprentices and technicians contribute to engineering businesses.

As IET Apprentice of the Year, Lydia has won a £1,000 prize, two years’ free membership of the IET and payment of her professional registration fees.

Barry Brooks, IET president, said: “Lydia should be very proud to have been named IET Apprentice of the Year. The award recognises that she is one of the most exceptional young individuals working in her field.

“There is an urgent need to encourage more young people into engineering and to highlight that apprenticeships provide a vital way to develop skills that are much in demand in the increasingly complex engineering and technology sectors. This route into the profession opens doors to exciting and rewarding careers.”

The Apprentice and Technician Awards are part of the IET’s wider awards series, which this year provided over £1million in awards, prizes and scholarships to celebrate excellence and research in the sector and encourage the next generation of engineers and technicians.

Entries for next year’s Apprentice and Technician Awards are now open, with a deadline of 30 May 2014.