Following news that BITA and the FLTA have joined forces to deliver a national apprentice scheme for fork lift truck engineers, FLTA chief executive Peter Harvey MBE examines the real value of apprenticeships.
At the recent annual FLTA Awards for Excellence, just one award was presented to an individual. It was perhaps the most important of the evening: the Apprentice of the Year. Highly competitive, this honour – which is open to third-year apprentices – serves as a strong reminder of the exciting talent entering our industry and the real value they bring to an organisation.
Over the past decade delivering apprenticeship training, the FLTA has seen hundreds of young people qualify as fork lift truck engineers, and go on to pursue successful careers with real prospects.
With the economy emerging from the doldrums and generous financial incentives available from the Government, the latest research indicates that one in five SMEs and one in three larger organisations plan to hire an apprentice in the next 12 months (Source: ICM, February 2014).
The question, perhaps, is “why doesn’t everyone do it?”
In the fork lift truck industry, increasing the number of apprenticeship places is vital to narrowing the skills gap and ensuring that the estimated 100,000 companies relying on fork lift trucks stay in action.
Over the next 20 years, up to 60% of our experienced, specialist engineers are due to retire. At least 200 qualified engineers are needed every year just to maintain current service levels.
For employers, recruitment is surprisingly straightforward, and funding is available from the government, as well as the industry, to support the next generation of talent.
In return, employers commercially benefit from service engineers who are hard-working, highly skilled and loyal. Research across a wide number of sectors supports this with 80% of companies reporting that apprenticeships increase staff retention.
Within our industry, one need look no further than our 20 Apprentice of the Year winners for evidence of this. Long after their night in the spotlight, many continue to actively contribute to the companies which started their careers.
At HFT Forklifts in Herefordshire, for example, 2000’s Apprentice of the Year, Robert Birch, continued to excel as a mobile service engineer, while 2007 winner Peter Davies has just celebrated his 10th year serving STILL Material Handling. Apprentice of the Year Jonathan Done (2006) has remained steadfastly loyal to Jofson Mitsubishi – working out in the field ensuring customers’ businesses remain in action.
Developing the next generation of engineering talent is not optional. As more experienced engineers retire, the skills gap is widening. Increasing the number of young apprentices entering the industry is a matter of urgency.
The formation of new, single apprenticeship scheme – in partnership with the British Industrial Truck Association – will allow us to attract young people to the rewarding careers that exist in our industry. Alongside this, we’ll work closely with employers to inform them of the benefits associated with apprenticeship and supporting them through the process in a variety of ways.