Despite youth unemployment showing signs of decline in Britain (note 1), it’s still too high. That’s why in the continuing tough economic conditions, we feel it’s more important than ever to help lower the rate of unemployment by investing in training opportunities for Britain’s young people. A key way we’re doing this is by providing apprenticeships, and in 2013 we had over 1,200 across the business.
We’re a company with a long history in training apprentices so I was surprised to discover in a report (note 2), that less than 10% of employers in England offer apprenticeships and that for every 1,000 employers just 11 apprenticeships are provided in Britain. This is low when compared with other countries like Germany and Australia, but it’s not due to lack of demand - 54% of young people in England said they would choose to do an apprenticeship if there was one available. Clearly, more companies need to step up and expand their opportunities.
As a leading British company and apprenticeship provider, we play an important role in helping tackle youth unemployment by giving young people life-changing skills needed to secure long-term careers. But don’t just take our word for it: in a survey of our British Gas apprentices, 100% said their placements had set them up for a successful career, 98% would recommend their apprenticeships to friends, while 94% believe they are financially better off and more prepared for the world of work than those who went to college or university.
In British Gas, our people and their skills are central to our ability to deliver great service to our customers. To achieve this, we provided industry leading training to over 1,200 apprentices, 358 of which were new starters. As part of this we invested £12.9m in our apprentices and the six award-winning academies where they train, and for each apprentice, we invested £30,000 and 2,500 hours of training. Apprentices can learn to become insulation fitters, solar panel installers, boiler engineers or train in smart technology to become a Smart Energy Expert. There are also apprenticeships available in non-engineering roles in Information Systems and Customer Service.
In Centrica Energy, we are also investing to develop the next generation of engineers with over 30 apprentices involved in our schemes across both our Power and Exploration & Production businesses. In Morecambe Bay apprentices are given first-hand experience working on the Gas Processing Terminals while also attending Furness College to get their qualifications. Many also opt to gain invaluable and unique offshore experience in their fourth year. Apprentices can choose the type of engineering they want to focus on, including Control and Instrumentation (equipment and systems that control flow, level, pressure and temperature), Electrical (high voltage systems that generate and distribute light, heat and power), as well as Mechanical (looking after pumps, gas turbines and diesel engines, as well as valves and heat exchangers).
Last year, Centrica Energy also committed to invest £85k with joint venture partners for the proposed Rhiannon offshore wind farm, in support for six new engineering apprentices.
We will continue to help our apprentices achieve their ambitions and maximise their potential. In doing so, we can also nurture our future talent pipeline which supports the long-term success of our business as many of our apprentices go on to gain employment with us.
1 Young people aged 16-24: Commons Library Standard Note, Youth Unemployment Statistics, 2014
2 Report by think tank Demos, supported by British Gas