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Science industry opens arms to more apprenticeships

The Science Industry Partnership (SIP), a powerful employer-led membership alliance supported by Cogent Skills, has today (Monday 8 February) announced its latest Apprenticeship Survey findings and the launch of a new group to support the sector’s apprenticeship ambitions.

The Science Industry Partnership (SIP), a powerful employer-led membership alliance supported by Cogent Skills, has today (Monday 8 February) announced its latest Apprenticeship Survey findings and the launch of a new group to support the sector’s apprenticeship ambitions.

Coinciding with National Apprenticeship Week 2021 (8-14 February), the SIP’s new Apprenticeship Strategy Group will strengthen employer engagement to ensure the apprenticeship system accurately reflects the needs of employers.

The report provides insight into the use of apprenticeships and their funding after examining data from employers across the UK science industry.  The latest figures reveal that whilst the science industry continues to embrace apprenticeships and technical education, more work is required to deliver the vision of apprenticeships for the sector.

The research shows that science-industry organisations have a far greater proportion of Higher-Level Apprentices (51%) when compared across all sectors (19%) and that 18% of apprentices are working at Levels 6 or 7 (leaping from just 6% in 2018).

Research was first undertaken in 2018 in response to the Life Sciences Sector Deal with the ambition of bolstering the 250,000 skilled scientific and technical employees needed through to 2025; the 2020 report provides an evidence base on how the apprenticeship system is working and what changes the sector would like to see.

The new SIP Apprenticeship Strategy Group will work collaboratively to improve accessibility and deliver the vision of apprenticeships for the science-using industries. Key priorities will be engaging science employers of all sizes to ensure that quality, standards, and end-point assessments are appropriately designed, and that the science industry has representation throughout the skills system.

Stephen Stewart, Global Talent Lead at GlaxoSmithKline, said: 
“The findings of this report reinforce the science sector as leading the way in the application and use of Apprenticeships in industry. Since our recommendations made in 2018, several new Apprenticeship standards were approved for use within the science sector. There is no doubt these have helped contribute to this upward trend of Higher and Degree Apprenticeships by establishing parity between some academic and vocational pathways into the industry.

“Delivering a vision for Apprenticeships within the science sector requires close collaboration between employers and Government, and I am delighted that the SIP will be establishing a new Apprenticeship Strategy Group to shape and drive forward our ambitious agenda.”

According to the new apprenticeship research, there has been much progress made since 2018. The survey reveals that the Apprenticeship Levy system’s overall engagement has steadily improved too with the vast majority of apprentices within the sector (95% of those surveyed) now funded via the Levy. As a result, the Levy recovery rate has more than doubled to 28% (up from 13% in 2018).

In total, 82% of organisations are currently training apprentices.  Total Levy liability from responding employers now stands at £23.3m against £22.6m in 2018, but adjustments could further enhance Levy utilisation. The SIP has the ambition to help science organisations surpass the national average of Levy recovery either by increasing the number of apprentices they train or by helping to transfer Levy.

Stewart continued:By collaborating through our influential employer-led alliance, we can work in partnership with the government and take more ownership of the skills needed to generate innovation and growth in the science industries. We will continue to champion policy reform and creating standards by which others follow.” 

Paul Hunt, R&D Director at Victrex, said: The need for high-quality apprenticeships in the science industry is clear. They offer a valuable combination of academic and vocational learning and provide a variety of career opportunities both for new and existing members of the workforce. However, more work needs to be done, with industry and government working in collaboration through the Science Industry Partnership to deliver the investment and reforms necessary for creating a world class skills system.”

Since 2018, the SIP has supported and facilitated seven new Science Industry Apprenticeship Standards, including L6 Laboratory Scientist, L7 Research Scientist and L7 Bioinformatics Scientist. These have contributed to the shift towards Higher Level and Degree Level Apprenticeships.

The SIP report marks the start of National Apprenticeship Week, the annual week-long celebration of apprenticeships taking place across England. This year is the 14th annual National Apprenticeship Week (#NAW2021), coordinated by the National Apprenticeship Service.

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