Charlie Mullins

Apprenticeships are vital for business

Charlie Mullins, managing director of Pimlico Plumbers and Secret Millionaire, offers his opinion on apprenticeships.

In this country we continue to undervalue apprenticeships and vocational qualifications, and to treat them as merely a poor relation to formal education. But in reality apprenticeships are vital for tackling both the key skills shortage we are facing and youth unemployment. Latest figures suggest there are now almost a million young people not in school, work or training – so called NEETs - and that just cannot continue.

In my opinion, young people should be encouraged to learn trades and skills, rather than being pushed into university courses.

I decided at the age of nine that I wanted to be a plumber. After leaving school at 15 with no qualifications to my name, I completed a three year apprenticeship in plumbing, before started out on my own with a second hand van and a bag of tools bought at auction. Pimlico Plumbers was officially born in 1979 and we now employ over 200 plumbers and support staff.

My point is, I have been there, done that and proved what can be achieved.

Apprenticeships offer young people a high-quality and respected hands on training route and employers and young people alike can benefit greatly from them.

For an employer, taking on apprentices improves productivity, strengthens workforces and improves motivation among employees. They also allow an employer to harness and find fresh talent and to train new people in the way they want them to learn and work, right from the very beginning.

At Pimlico, we practice what we preach and offer apprenticeships in skills ranging from plumbing to heating engineering, electrical and carpentry, building and mechanics.

As well as attending college one day per week in term time, our apprentices spend the rest of their time accompanying our qualified engineers on real jobs. So they gain hands-on experience in the real world of actual situations. It is not just words and theory in a text book.

What remains clear is that we are facing a serious skills shortage in the traditional trades and if our economy is to grow, and we are to meet the Government’s infrastructure building targets, then attitudes need to change – and fast.

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