Words: Jason Lippitt
MD of Blachford UK
An open letter to schools, parents and young people, from Jason Lippitt, Managing Director of Blachford UK.
It may come as a surprise to young people and their teachers, but it’s not A grades or first-class degrees that are top of the list for many employers. I want to employ young people who have a strong work ethic, initiative and a desire to learn and get on, and I want to give them apprenticeships.
There’s a current shortfall of 173,000 skilled workers as 89% of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) businesses struggle to recruit. The situation is getting worse as, with Brexit on the horizon, new STEM roles are expected to double in the next 10 years.
I run a successful manufacturing company in Chesterfield, but I rarely get speculative approaches from young people enquiring about apprenticeship opportunities. I know that Blachford is not alone in this.
This is why I am calling on all schools to position apprenticeships as golden opportunities for careers with all their pupils, regardless of how they perform academically.
Apprenticeships give young people both the qualifications and a head start on the career ladder. Better still, they are university debt free. With the right attitude, there are no boundaries to career potential, particularly in the manufacturing sector.
Give me a young person who is keen to learn and progress, and I will ensure the Company invests heavily in their future. I will put them on the right apprenticeship path for them and happily fund their degree if that is what they choose.
Driven by the current skills shortage, the career opportunities for young people in the manufacturing and engineering sector are limitless.
There’s a current shortfall of 173,000 skilled workers as 89% of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) businesses struggle to recruit. The situation is getting worse as, with Brexit on the horizon, new STEM roles are expected to double in the next 10 years. We need school leavers now to fill these roles. These school leavers are the senior engineers, managing directors and business leaders of the future.
Schools, young people and companies in the STEM sector must talk to each other. Until then, neither the sector nor many young people in this country will reach their true potential.
If we do not collectively encourage young people to consider apprenticeships alongside A levels and university, we are risking the country’s economy. The engineering sector alone contributes more than a quarter of the UK’s total GDP. This figure is likely to rise in the face of Brexit - however, with a skills shortage, this sector cannot perform to its potential.
The lack of young people entering the STEM sector when they leave school is also, I believe, down to an outdated view the nation has of jobs in engineering and manufacturing. Jobs in these sectors where traditionally seen being dirty and hard. Thanks to technology, times have changed. The use of technology has also opened up more exciting and progressive career opportunities which are often hidden from view.
Walk around manufacturing and engineering companies today and the shop floor is only a small part of the business. Behind Blachford’s shop floor, we have laboratories, engineering workshops, IT, an international sales team, HR and finance departments – all offering a variety of roles for aspiring young people.
Don’t expect jobs like this to find you though. An internet search on a jobs’ website will not always reveal opportunities like this. You have to create them. Convince MDs like me that you could be their next employee. Be proactive and start with that speculative letter or email. I promise you it will open doors.
If you’re the parent, friend, teacher or relation of a young job seeker, I urge you to share this letter with them. I believe that in life we make our own opportunities, and a career is no different.