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BWF takes fight to Parliament to save joinery apprenticeships

The British Woodworking Federation (BWF) has taken its fight to save joinery apprenticeships to the House of Commons’ Sub-Committee on Education, Skills and the Economy.

BWF takes fight to Parliament to save joinery apprenticeships

Speaking alongside the CBI, the TUC and the Local Government Association, BWF Chief Executive Iain McIlwee gave evidence as part of the committee’s inquiry into apprenticeships.

McIlwee highlighted the benefits that woodworking apprenticeships are bringing and the high level of take up within the industry, but questioned new funding arrangements.

Raising concerns that commercial pressures on colleges were leading to short-termism, McIlwee told MPs:

“If we’re forcing colleges to behave like businesses, we’re forcing them to think in shorter periods of time, fundamentally upsetting the relationship we have. How does it cover the capital investment of the equipment required? How does it fund woodworking as a course when you’re looking at the cost between a work bench and a workstation?

“We’ve seen the erosion of woodworking in schools, and now we’re starting to see the same in colleges.”

When questioned on how woodworking could boost training standards and attract the quality of apprentices it needed, Iain McIlwee told the Committee:

“It starts well before we even think about college. It starts back in the way careers advice is given at school, the infrastructure by which people understand the industries that are available to them.

“What we’re looking at here is how we develop rewarding careers that add productivity into our business and everybody wins. We need to develop and evolve our skills base.

“If you can develop your own and produce the people you need, then that’s incentive itself. What we fundamentally lack is the infrastructure to deliver it at the moment and that’s where we should be working more effectively with colleges.”

The BWF has long articulated and lobbied for its vision of a fully trained, qualified and professional workforce for the woodworking industry, and its members are highly committed to apprenticeships.

Central to the BWF’s action plan for 2016/17 is a determination to finalise and launch the new apprenticeship in architectural joinery, to replace the old bench joinery apprenticeship. This aims to provide employers and new entrants to the industry with a higher quality qualification and greater flexibility of training.

Watch the evidence session on Parliament’s website at: www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/ac8f48f9-a69f-42f2-918e-f2abc13fc475

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Fiona Russell-Horne
Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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