ECA has pledged its support for Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham’s proposed new Manchester Baccalaureate, or MBacc.
The MBacc is designed as an alternative to the existing national English Baccalaureate (EBacc) and will focus on subjects which improve young people’s chances of securing employment in the Greater Manchester economy, including in engineering.
The MBacc is one of a number of proposals being pursued as part of ongoing ‘trailblazer’ discussions with Whitehall to allow Greater Manchester to take on more control and spending power over the design and delivery of technical education locally. Similar ‘trailblazer’ discussions are also under way to expand existing devolved powers in the West Midlands.
ECA has welcomed the MBacc proposal, citing the urgent need for a greater focus on electrotechnical and other trade skills at regional and local levels as a necessary precondition for achieving ambitious net zero carbon targets.
ECA Director of Workforce and Public Affairs Andrew Eldred says, “The MBacc has the potential to help us achieve a better balance between technical and academic routes in education. We are heartened to see Andy recognising the value of clearer education pathways for young people into trades careers. Such careers promise not only to be personally rewarding for young people themselves, but also absolutely vital for the rest of the society as we look to transition to a new low carbon economy.
“As the largest trade body representing electricians in the UK, we support greater local devolution of powers as a motor for innovation in policy and significantly improved technical education outcomes.”
Electrical apprenticeships are among the most successful and sought-after in England. They boast the highest take-up of any trade apprenticeship and typically represent at least 20% of all apprenticeships in the built environment. Electrotechnical skills are essential across a wide range of new technology areas, including electric vehicle charge-points, solar PV, battery storage, micro-wind and smart energy controls.
However, while the electrical apprenticeship scheme in England usually recruits an average of 5,000-6,000 new people into the sector each year, that’s not enough to meet industry needs. ECA estimates that we require some 10,000 new starters in England (12,000 in the wider UK) each and every year to keep up with sector demand and to replace those changing careers or retiring.
In Greater Manchester, electrical apprentice starts typically number around 300 per year. ECA believes that these must increase to something closer to 500 per year if the region is to achieve targets for low carbon energy and digitalisation of buildings and infrastructure.