My Dowty Apprentice Story
There must be hundreds, probably thousands, of similar stories to that of Ian Mence and Tony Belisario; including myself who joined as a Commercial Apprentice in September 1972.
The training and workplace experience we received was probably second to none, although we did not realise it at the time.
There is no doubt that the ‘thin sandwich’ method of tertiary education works well. There will always be a need for pure University Degrees, but our economy would doubtless benefit greatly from the wider re-introduction of an applied process properly linking workplace and education.
The decline in long term training within industry was triggered by the UK adoption of the Maastricht Treaty in November 1993, freedom of movement within the EU meant that UK companies no longer had to “waste money” on training; they could simply entice already-qualified employees from other EU States and thereby quickly improve their bottom line. Profitability could be further improved by not having to pay the 2.5% payroll levy imposed by the Engineering Industry Training Board.
The demise of industrial training was exacerbated after New Labour came to power in 1997, with the mandate from Tony Blair to move to a “knowledge-based economy” and to give all school leavers the opportunity to go to university. This was mainly done to improve the UK ranking within the EU measurement for numbers achieving university places. Polytechnics and Colleges were elevated to the status of university and the idea of studying for anything other than ‘a degree’ became laughable.
The eventual result was what we see today; millennial entitlement to the “Uni Experience”. Three years of obtaining a qualification with no standing, no relevance to future employment and a life-long debt of at least £45,000 (latest Government figure for average student debt).
Sir George was right.
His visionary mind instinctively understood the long-term need for structured and continuous training; not only for his organisation, but the wider economy across all sectors and types of industry.
Why, only last week I had a ‘flyer’ pushed through my letter box (along with the whole County I suspect). It was from SAFRAN Landing Systems (aka Dowty Rotol / Dowty Equipment). They were desperately looking for ‘Trained Machinists – CNC and conventional’ and willing to accept anyone with just an NVQ in machining.
Beyond the smug laughter from ex-apprentices, you could hear the sound of Sir George Dowty turning in his grave.
DGS 1972 -75
DFS 1975- 88
DEL/Ultra 1988 – 95