The owners of Campbell West are calling for a change in approach to how apprenticeships are promoted among school leavers following the Chancellor’s pledge to boost apprenticeship training in a £50-million pilot scheme.
Directors Steven Campbell and Daniel West, who left school at the age of 16 to enter the world of work as apprentices, broadly welcomed Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement vow to “stimulate” apprenticeships in engineering and other growth sectors.
But they insist urgent action must address a fundamental lack of awareness among school pupils about how the apprenticeship route can support a career in engineering so young people are in a better position to make key decisions when they leave school.
Steven said: “Our company is strongly committed to supporting the development of young people through apprenticeships, so we welcome the Chancellor’s £50-million training stimulus.
“But we are concerned that there is still a lack of awareness of apprenticeships – primarily the learning-on-the-job aspect – as a route to a role in engineering. Our concern is that students are being directed to desk-based courses which don’t equip learners sufficiently for the working world.
“As part of this new funding, we want to see a light shone on what apprenticeships can offer school-leavers. Too many young people opt for courses which are simply not fit for purpose. This is not their fault; they are simply not given the whole range of options when they need it the most.”
Mechanical engineering is an increasingly important part of business activity for Steven and Daniel West who became apprentice plumbers on leaving school before launching Bracknell-headquartered Campbell West in 2017.
They initially focused on the healthcare sector before working in local government, education settings, data centres, workspaces and industrial buildings, plus residential projects before adding engineering to their specialisms.
Daniel added: “We know from personal experience that a good apprenticeship can be a ticket for a bright future for young people.
“But it borders on heart-breaking when young people come to us after undertaking college courses with certificates that aren’t worth the money they are printed on when they enter the real world.
“If the Government wants to get bang for its buck, then it needs to focus on guidance for 15 and 16-year-olds so they’re more aware of what apprenticeship can offer so they don’t waste their time on inappropriate courses.”
Campbell West recently gained a prestigious triple seal of approval as the company strives to enhance quality, environmental and health and safety performance, earning ISO (International Standards Organisation) 9001, 14001 and 45001 certification to demonstrate overall commitment to continuous improvement.