The government’s Education and Skills Funding Agency has approved an increase in funding for a two year watchmaking apprenticeship from £9000 to £27,000.
The trebling of the money available to pay for apprenticeships could lead to a dramatic increase in the number of businesses prepared to offer structured training towards a recognised qualification.
An industry group headed by Matt Bowling, co-founder of Watchfinder, and David Poole, former chief examiner at the British Horological Institute and chairman of the George Daniels Educational Trust Advisory Committee, has been working with the industry for over two years to develop the right structured training programmes and persuade the government to support it.
The George Daniels Educational Trust has supported the development of the apprenticeship from day one.
Executives from Swatch Group, Breitling, Cartier, Bremont and many independent watchmakers have been able to contribute throughout the process in an effort to ensure that the apprenticeship is widely supported and appropriate for the needs of British-based commercial organisations.
£27,000 is the highest level of funding available for an apprenticeship in any industry, which is likely to encourage specialist providers that oversee workplace-based training to offer the watchmaking course. There is no cap on the number of apprentices that the government will fund.
“There are training providers that deliver apprenticeships for everything from brick laying to plumbing. Their expertise is in the mechanics of apprenticeships, how they are funded, how employers provide training, how it is monitored and assessed, and how employers are paid for providing the infrastructure and training. These training providers were not motivated to get involved in a niche opportunity like watchmaking when the apprenticeship was not ‘approved for delivery’ and funding was only £9000, but now it is £27,000 and approved, we expect it to be commercially viable,” explains Mr Poole.
“I would disappointed if we did not have the first apprentices under the new system starting from September,” Mr Bowling adds.
Two years of structured training would be provided in the workplace, or potentially with day or block release and online learning support, the actual model for delivery is now being considered, Mr Poole describes.
The approved two year apprenticeship scheme is designed to train people to strip, service, repair and reassemble the most common quartz, automatic and manual wind movements.
At the moment, there is no formal qualification for apprentices completing the apprenticeship, but Mr Poole hopes this will be created by a recognised organisation such as City & Guilds.
There is a global shortage of qualified watchmakers, and the UK is no exception. In a typical year, the British School of Watchmaking and the Birmingham City University Horology course have only around 20 students between them.
In securing the £27,000 rate per apprenticeship from the Education and Skills Funding Agency, Mr Bowling and Mr Poole feel they have cleared the most difficult hurdle to establishing a viable and sustainable programme. However, they still want to work with the industry to fine-tune the initiative and ensure it is used as widely as possible.
To learn more about how to get involved, please contact Matt Bowling on Matt.Bowling@watchfinder.co.uk.