The skills shortage in the energy industry is well documented, as is the level of youth unemployment in the United Kingdom, which, according to the Office for National Statistics, fell in the last quarter of 2013.
We have a history of employing school leavers as apprentices, having taken on 17 school-leavers as data and fibre engineers since our inception. All of our apprentices have completed an NVQ; many still work for us; and some have even been deployed on overseas projects.
Graeme Duncan started out as an apprentice at 16 and went on to set up the business in 2003. Graeme said: “We need to ensure that practical, hands-on training opportunities are available for people. I didn’t want to go into further education, so left school at 16 and got an apprenticeship as an electrical engineer with a local firm. It provided me with a great opportunity and the experience has stood me in good stead throughout my career.
“The issue of youth unemployment and the skills shortage is a very complex one, affected by many factors, including migration, an ageing population and delayed retirement. There is no magic potion that will solve the problem, but every school and business has a responsibility to nurture future talent.
“Without continually bringing on new staff and developing their skills, skills gaps will occur. It is not in the short-term that this will be felt, but in a generation’s time, as we have seen in the IT and communications sector, and are now seeing in other industries. At Xtreme we have made a very concerted effort to train new talent in order to minimise the gap.
“The focus on higher or further education is detrimental to the economy as it can prolong the skills gap as a university degree doesn’t necessarily give someone the basic skills required to do certain jobs. Schools and businesses need to have a closer relationship in order to highlight the range of work opportunities available to pupils. Xtreme has established a great relationship with Westhill and Northfield Academies. Staff regularly go into the schools to speak to pupils and some of our apprentices have joined the company because of this relationship.
“We’re fortunate here in the north-east that the energy industry supply chain offers many career opportunities. For example, we provide IT and communication network infrastructure to oil and gas companies onshore and offshore, illustrating the sector’s need for data engineers.
“For any firm thinking about taking on an apprentice I’d say do it. An apprentice brings fresh energy into a company and can help to build morale amongst other employees, while also helping a firm to remain competitive. The biggest benefit is knowing that your company is helping to sustain a sector by maintaining the necessary skill set.”