Business leaders in the North East have backed a binding pledge by schools and colleges to work closer with industry.
Engineering and manufacturing body EAL unveiled the pledge in the House of Commons before business secretary Vince Cable on Tuesday.
It comes just over a year after The Journal launched its Proud to Back Apprenticeships campaign, to keep the North East working and to close the skills gap in the region.
The crisis in careers advice coupled with the prejudice of parents continues to curtail the numbers seeking to take a vocational pathway to work.
North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) chief executive, James Ramsbotham, said: “There is an increasing appetite from both schools and industry to bring together the worlds of education and business, so we welcome anything that would help develop these relationships.”
With research suggesting that over 8,500 skilled people across the North East will retire from the sector before 2016, considerable danger is being posed to the industry, with many companies reaching full capacity in their ability to recruit and deliver.
Mr Ramsbotham added: “The North East boasts some of the best parts of the UK economy and we’re fortunate to have such dedicated and successful businesses blazing a trail in the process, manufacturing and engineering sectors.
“However, it is not just the responsibility of large firms and schools, colleges and universities to ensure our future workforce is equipped with the requisite skills.
“This issue is something that we must address throughout the business community and while we have a plethora of large companies dedicated to apprenticeships and employee development, not enough is being done by the SMEs in regional supply chains to address the potentially serious skills shortage.”
According to the NECC, around 80% of the region’s engineering firms do not have apprentices or are not engaged in the skills development agenda.
“I would urge all firms to consider apprenticeships,” said Mr Ramsbotham. “It is not only good for your business, it is also good for regional business.
“To a young person, it is a way to gain vital on the job training, earn a wage while learning and also experience priceless workplace skills and experience.
“For a business, apprenticeships are an ideal way to mould ambitious and enthusiastic young workers to meet the needs of their business.”
The bid is backed by members of The Industry Apprentice Council – made up of young apprentices – who fight to improve the status of apprenticeships in the eyes of parents and educators.
By signing the pledge the participating schools and colleges will agree to:
• Provide unbiased careers advice and promote apprenticeships and the vocational route as equal to the academic route into higher education.
• Invite industry apprentices to visit their school to share their personal experiences with students and talk about careers in industry.
• Work with local employers to offer their students a chance to experience work in modern day industry through careers fairs, work experience and visits.