Introduced to five of the 14 apprentices currently going through their training with Prysmian, Nick Clegg declared himself ‘a huge admirer of Prysmian.’
CEO of Prysmian, Paul Atkinson, outlined the severity of the issue facing manufacturers in the UK, ‘The shortage of skilled staff is one of the most significant threats to our future.
‘We sincerely believe that for at least the last decade there has been too much emphasis on purely academic education while the engineering and industrial skills on which our manufacturing sector relies have been treated as a second class career path.’
The company’s response to this challenge is to increase its investment in in-house training and, just as significantly, to foster relationships with local schools in order to present the option of vocational qualifications as the gateway to a rewarding career.
Nick Clegg went further, ‘In this country there has been an atmosphere of academic snobbery about vocational qualifications. Other countries don’t feel this way. We need to put academic and vocational qualifications on an equal footing.’
The Deputy Prime minister reminded the audience of some 100 members of Prysmian staff that two million new apprenticeships have started over the lifetime of this parliament and that the South East has seen a 90 per cent increase in the number of people starting apprenticeships in the same period.
Prysmian is keen to work with Government in supporting vocational qualifications. The company makes a significant investment each year to both its apprentices and to the number of students who are offered placement as part of their degree courses.
Most significantly, the company always tries to find permanent employment for its trainees and recognises that investing in training its future workforce is the only way to ensure the company’s continued manufacturing success.
While at the Prysmian plant Nick Clegg also congratulated the company on its 100 year anniversary and presented a centenary memento to Paul Atkinson, wishing the company ‘a great next 100 years.’