Engineering and technology apprenticeships for young people – Ufi's response to Engineering UK

Engineering UK has highlighted a worrying decline of young people undertaking engineering and technology apprenticeships, in their call for evidence, which poses a serious threat to the UK’s economic capacity.

As the UK continues to face a skills crisis, being reluctant to address such a serious threat will only make the matter worse.

We believe the UK needs a comprehensive systems-based approach to skills. Rather than focusing on which skills are currently in shortage, we need a better skills system that can adapt to change and benefit everyone.

At Ufi we champion the power of technology to improve skills for work and deliver better outcomes for all. With the UK facing an unprecedented skills crisis, we know that technology has the capacity to improve how adults across the country get the skills they need now and for the future of work.

Our response to Engineering UK’s call for evidence aims to better understand the barriers young learners face and to raise awareness of potential solutions to increase the number of people completing engineering, manufacturing, and technology apprenticeships.

"To meet the needs of the UK economy we need to stop focusing on skills shortages and instead shift our attention towards creating a comprehensive systems-based approach to skills that includes tech-enabled learning. Apprenticeships offer an accessible path into employment and an effective way for people to gain vocational skills. By integrating technology across the UK’s skills system, including the apprenticeship system, we can provide access to vocational learning for all adults.”

Louise Rowland, Deputy CEO, Ufi VocTech Trust

Our response is supported by case studies from several Ufi funded projects operating across the UK. The relevant projects include:

GTA England: Engineering Employers Mate

A learning app for engineering apprentices that uses virtual equipment whic gives learners control over their own learning.

Nissan Manufacturing UK – Digital SPACE (Support to Promote Apprenticeship Careers and Engagement

An app that empowers young adults to settle into their apprenticeships and progress into sustainable careers.

Enginuity – Creating a gamification platform for retaining UK engineering skills

A gamified learning platform which bridges the tacit knowledge gap in the engineering sector.

Edinburgh Napier University: TimberTED

Providing construction students and professionals with online flexible training modules to upskill and gain a recognised, accredited qualification with a bespoke digital assessment tool.

Multiverse (previously WhiteHat):

Platform matching a very diverse range of apprentices with high-quality opportunities, enabling apprentices to create a digital profile of their skills and experience.

Executive Summary

The engineering and technology sector faces an acute skills crisis, like many other parts of the UK. Across all sectors of the economy, at least 24% of current vacancies are proving hard to fill because of skills shortages, and only 8% of people who left school at 16 intending to learn in the next three years. In short, we are already seeing the impacts of not addressing the skills crisis.

Apprenticeships provide a vital route into employment, particularly for students who are keen to get into the workforce and start earning. However, as Lords Willet and Knight point out in their call for evidence “engineering-related apprenticeship starts in England are still 9% lower than in 2014/15”. Combined with a 34% decline in student interest in engineering and manufacturing technologies there is a serious threat to the UK’s economic capacity.

The good news is that we have the tools to improve apprenticeships, making them more accessible, higher quality and more adaptable. To make this change, the UK needs a comprehensive systems-based approach to skills that is based on a modular, flexible, and tech-enabled approach to learning. The apprenticeship system needs to look at how it can better integrate gamification, modular learning and well-designed digital pedagogies.

Digital technology is transforming how we acquire skills and prepare for the future of work, and by integrating technology across the UK’s skills system we will be able to open access to all forms of adult learning and increase opportunity.

Ufi has experience of developing different projects and ventures that use technology in apprenticeship delivery to give people the skills they need for work. In our response, we lay out some of the key themes developed through the whole range of our work – and provide a series of illustrative case studies that showcase exactly how technology can be effectively developed and deployed.

To discuss Ufi's response please contact Josh Smith, Ufi Public Affairs Manager at

To discuss Ufi's consultation response please contact Josh Smith, Ufi Public Affairs Officer at

To find out more about our approach, read our Deputy CEO’s blog exploring how the UK can transition to a world class vocational skills system at a time of change.

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