Employers from across the region converged on Telford College’s virtual and augmented reality suite for a breakfast briefing on apprenticeship and industry placements opportunities.
Guest speakers included Amelia Brennan from the National Apprenticeship Service at the Department for Education, and Calum O’Sullivan who leads on apprenticeships for Telford & Wrekin Council.
Among the companies represented at the event were Lyreco, McPhillips, Schneider Electric, Pickstock Carnell Group, Mail Solutions, Ethero, Go For Broke, Swancote, and Avara Foods.
There were also delegates from the National Health Service, Marches Local Enterprise Partnership, local authority, and Abraham Darby Academy in attendance.
Opening the event, Telford College principal Graham Guest told the businesses: “We have around 9,000 students here at the college, who are all yours.
“They are highly employable young adults who can add value to your workplace at a time when we know the skills shortage is immense.
“We no longer plan our programmes in isolation from employers, but seek to deliver and develop curriculums together. Industry placements are an important element of this.”
Amelia Brennan explained the idea behind the placements – Government-backed reforms to technical education aimed at boosting productivity and giving young people business-ready skills.
These form a key part of the Government’s new T Levels – vocational programmes which will be running in tandem with A Levels when they begin being rolled out across the country from next year.
She said the Department for Education was facing ‘a huge challenge nationally’ to recruit sufficient businesses prepared to commit to offering minimum 45 placement days.
Placement days can be taken either as a single block, or multiple days spread over a longer period.
“We would really love it if local employers took just one student on an extended industry placement, which helps to solidify their learning. Events such as this are all about getting employers thinking about how this could work for their business.”
Calum O’Sullivan explained how Telford & Wrekin Council was working in partnership with many providers, including Telford College.
“For me, this was all about coming along to share with other employers the challenges and opportunities which have arisen from the new apprenticeship levy.
“I wanted to see how we, as a business community, can support each other. With the reforms, there are a lot of barriers, but it is about working together to overcome these.”
He added: “It’s about utilising providers like Telford College to support you on that journey. If you get success with the apprenticeship levy, you can really redesign and develop your workforce.”
Darren Wilson, director of employer engagement at Telford College, said: “Breakfast meetings of this kind are invaluable; they enable us to communicate key messages to people at the heart of employment, allowing us to listen, and meet the needs of our employers.
“Strengthening knowledge and improving relationships with employers is essential for us. It leads to increased work skills development and job prospects for all people in the local and national jobs market.”