What can we do to address the shortage of engineers in Dorset?

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In June 2015 the government announced the term “apprenticeship” will be protected in law, gave ‘degree apprenticeships’ equal treatment to degrees and committed to creating 3 million apprenticeships (at intermediate level 2, advanced level 3, higher levels 4-6 and degree levels 6&7) by 2020.  Therefore it is imperative that higher education institutions are working alongside, schools and industry to ensure they fully utilise the apprenticeship levy to deliver high quality higher and degree apprenticeships.

Recent research by the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has identified three growing sectors that are important to Dorset’s economy and have the potential to drive high productivity growth for Dorset, one of these being advanced engineering (Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership, 2018).  A benefit of apprenticeships is to address the regional skills gap in engineering and loss of knowledge in regional companies as a result of employee turnover or retirement through supported succession planning.  Identified skills gaps and shortages across the Dorset area include significant weaknesses in engineering skills. The demand for skills to replace those who are leaving the workforce is much greater than the demand for skills generated by projected growth in the economy (Department for Education, 2017).

The percentage of engineering graduates in the region needs to be increased to address the skills and output gaps identified.  This cannot be achieved from full time degree programmes alone.  Currently 35% of Bournemouth University (BU) engineering graduates from our full time programmes who are in professional employment work in the local area (South-West) while a large percentage will go into industry all over the world.

BU’s Department of Design and Engineering in collaboration with Bournemouth and Poole College (BPC) are tackling this local engineering skill shortage head on through the development of an engineering degree apprenticeship which launched in September 2018.

The integrated programme was developed in collaboration with local industry and all students studying at all levels of the programme come from the local region and are employed in the local engineering sector.  The degree apprenticeship provides a seamless pathway for part time engineering education for local companies and for an employee starting with a Higher National Certificate (HNC) and Foundation Degree in Engineering (FdEng) at BPC in day release mode and further progressing to the BEng (Hons) Engineering degree at BU in flexible learning mode.  The programme has manufacturing, mechanical, marine and electronic pathways.  There are currently approximately 50 degree apprentices across the levels and this number is expected to grow rapidly.

We are noticing that degree apprenticeships, as an alternative route to full time degree programmes, are being supported by local schools who are actively promoting apprenticeship opportunities at their careers fairs.  A consequence of this is that we are now finding more potential university applicants enquiring about degree apprenticeship opportunities at our open days.  Interest from Industry in degree apprenticeships is also high.  Ten apprenticeship levy events have been held in the local region since January 2017, attracting 350 participants from over 160 organisations.

In summary, degree apprenticeships are key to the growth of the skills of the local economy.  There is a noticeable change in attitude towards apprenticeships by schools, industry, parents and students.  There are a large number of engineering apprenticeships becoming available.

For more information on the engineering degree apprenticeship contact:

Dr Philip Sewell (Bournemouth University) https://www.bournemouth.ac.uk/ 01202 961294

Craig Robinson (Bournemouth and Poole College) https://www.thecollege.co.uk/ 01202 205704

For more information about the undergraduate and post graduate courses available at Bournemouth University, visit: https://www.bournemouth.ac.uk/courses