Leading Trade Associations in the materials handling sector, the British Industrial Truck Association (BITA) and the Fork Lift Truck Association (FLTA), have reiterated their commitment to developing quality apprenticeships, following Monday night’s BBC Panorama programme, The Great Apprentice Scandal.

The programme, aired on 2 April 2012, uncovered shocking evidence of private training providers in some sectors allegedly offering apprenticeships involving little or no work experience and inadequate training. Such an approach, if true, short-changes both the government, which provides funding, and crucially the young people who signed up to an apprenticeship.

The contrast between the type of apprenticeships featured by Panorama and the courses which the forklift truck industry has been instrumental in developing could not be greater. Forklift Truck apprentices, sponsored by leading employers in the industry such as Linde, Barloworld and Jungheinrich, receive high-quality vocational training, both on placement and in the classroom, equipping them to pursue a career all the way to management level.

Tim Waples, President of BITA, said: “Unlike other business sectors, the forklift industry actively needs to recruit young people and is currently aiming to take on around 200 apprentices a year.  The development of the BITA Academy last year is clear evidence of our commitment, as an industry, to training and developing young people. We are keen to highlight the exciting and rewarding job opportunities available for young people in our sector.”

FLTA Chairman, Martyn Fletcher, said: “We were deeply saddened by much of what we saw on Panorama last night, and we hope young people are not put off all apprenticeships as a result. An IMI accredited Fork Lift Truck apprenticeship, no matter where in the UK it is delivered, will take a minimum of three years with scope for a further fourth year of advanced training.  We, like BITA, are now even talking about a potential fifth year of training.  Apprentices spend the majority of their time on work placements with the sponsoring employer. Underpinning technical knowledge is taught at appropriate colleges.”

BITA members have invested significantly in the BITA Academy, a dedicated, branded apprenticeship training facility operated in conjunction with City of Bristol College.  The BITA Academy offers both a three-year Higher Apprenticeship qualification including an exclusive quality assured certificate, and an Advanced Level Apprenticeship qualification, achieved during a fourth year of study, which leads to a Diploma in FLT Maintenance & Repair (both awards are accredited by IMI Awards). Additionally, graduates are also accredited as Engineering Technicians by the Society of Operations Engineers.

The FLTA continues to work closely with North Warwickshire & Hinckley College (NWHC) and Remit Training, which also offer apprenticeships leading to the same IMI Awards accredited qualifications offered by the BITA Academy.

As forklift truck sales continue to rise in the UK, the sector needs to attract high-quality apprentices to secure continued availability of qualified engineers. With current economic data, including March figures from Markit (the global financial information company) and Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply, showing continued growth in the manufacturing sector, despite near stagnation across many other sectors, the forklift industry is well-placed to continue to grow.

The forklift industry continues to work together to greatly enhance employment opportunities for graduates of the apprenticeship scheme and maximise the opportunities for retaining newly-skilled people within the sector.

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