I have the privilege of working for a company that is expanding, and we have recently taken on a new employee. It has been a great disappointment for us that despite the various incentives on offer, we cannot take advantage of what the Government calls apprenticeships. As a result we are put at a commercial disadvantage when compared to other businesses that are better placed to fit the criteria set out. Instead of part employing someone who will also get Government funding to go to College part time, we are faced with the need to employ someone full time, and then to fund what training we can afford to send them on. This is of course more costly for us and potentially impacts on the amount of training we can expose our employees to. In reality, this means that whereas we could potentially employ two apprentices at the same time, which would give them a more rounded experience, we will take longer to grow our business and employ less people. The reason why we are unable to utilise what could otherwise be a very positive scheme, one that Schools and Colleges promote extensively, is that our business operates in an industry that does not fit neatly into any of the training schemes which the apprenticeships are built around. We install Audio Visual equipment, which means our engineers need to know quite a bit about electrical installation, they also need to know quite a bit about IT and they also need to know quite a bit about basic building skills. Ensuring that the right piece of equipment is hung safely on the right wall, and then cabled up to the right computer and left in a working state is not rocket science, but it is something that crosses three distinct disciplines as far as the modern training apprenticeships are concerned. Our problem is that we don’t need a fully qualified electrician, and indeed lack the level of work for someone being trained as an electrician to practice their skills on. Equally we don’t have enough IT work to justify employing a dedicated IT trainee. The building skills we need all of our engineers to understand are critical to the success of our work, but the amount of work we do that needs building skills for is very modest.
If we were much bigger as a Company we might be able to use the system a bit better, and certainly a large AV company could potentially provide more electrical work opportunities, or more IT opportunities. However all of our engineers are multi skilled and one of the joys of my role in Sales is that whichever engineer I speak to, can understand to varying degrees, all elements of most of the jobs that I manage to win for the Company. It might be easier for the Government and for Training agencies if we fitted one of their boxes a bit better, the irony is that all of the training agencies and indeed Government itself, depend heavily on AV for their day to day work, yet they haven’t twigged that our Industry is not a monotone set of skills. Perhaps we are unique, but I suspect not.
Indeed several people who read the above have confirmed that we are not unique!