Ford, Tata and Airbus back Semta apprenticeship bid

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The UK's biggest manufacturers have backed a Semta initiative to double the number of higher level apprenticeships in England.

Ford, Tata, Siemens and Airbus were among the top firms who signed up to the Semta Apprenticeship Ambition at the House of Lords. The scheme aims to increase the number of apprenticeships from 8,000 to 16,000 by 2016 through a ten point delivery plan. Employers said the scheme's success was critical to sustaining the UK's manufacturing growth. Jon Bolton, managing director at Tata said: "Apprentices are the life blood of our country and only by investing in them can we return the essential skills we need to the UK." Juergen Maier, managing director at Siemens added: "We need engineering skills to grow...We don't value vocational skills anywhere near enough in the UK." The Semta Apprenticeship Ambition outlines commitments to boost the uptake of apprentices- which are on offer from just 7% of manufacturing. These include breaking establishing a single point of contact for employers to provide help and advice on taking on apprentices and a bid to cut down the red tape involved in the process. Philip Whiteman, chief executive at Semta said: "We need to make it much easier for companies to get engaged. Most importantly we need more employers to take on, train, champion, invest in and benefit from apprentices." The scheme is being run in partnership with the National Apprenticeship Service. Other employers supporting the Semta scheme include BAE, Rolls-Royce and Nissan.