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Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is supporting the search for the next generation of plumbers and electricians, as the number of people starting apprenticeships hits a... VW helps find the next generation of tradespeople

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is supporting the search for the next generation of plumbers and electricians, as the number of people starting apprenticeships hits a five-year low.

The brand sponsored the 2021 HIP and SPARKS Learner of the Year competition for the second consecutive year, providing a fleet of Transporter vans to help move the team and equipment for the events across the UK.

The competition is helping to promote the benefit of apprenticeships and encouraging those on schemes to hone their skills, as government data reveals that apprenticeship starts have continued to decline since the introduction of the levy in 2016/17, and are down 43 per cent year-on-year following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Apprenticeship starts in 2019/20 fell in every enterprise size band, with small enterprises suffering the largest decrease of 19 per cent. Public administration is the only sector to record an increase since 2016/17, with manufacturing and construction decreasing by 36 per cent and 23 per cent, respectively, in the past five years.

The finals of the HIP and SPARKS Learner of the Year took place in May, with a new format for 2021. Following theory and fault-finding rounds earlier in the year, six finalists were asked to complete a six-hour practical installation in their own colleges, showcasing their skills and technical abilities.

Expert judges from both the plumbing and electrical industries reviewed the finalists, announcing Tom Race, from Burnley College, as the HIP Learner of the Year and Tom Tyler, from City of Wolverhampton College, as the SPARKS Learner of the Year.

As well as supporting the competition to find the next-generation, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles offers apprenticeships as a Service Technician, Parts Advisor, and Service Advisor, where young workers can learn from expert technicians. The programmes can be tailored specifically to help apprentices develop and hone their skills, using both practical and theoretical learning in the brand’s Van Centres as well as at the Volkswagen Group’s National Learning Centre in Milton Keynes.

Kate Thompson, head of marketing at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, said: “We are delighted to have sponsored the HIP and SPARKS Learner of the Year competitions again this year, recognising young apprentices’ achievements and encouraging them to further improve their skills. Congratulations to all those who took part and especially to this year’s winners, Tom Race and Tom Tyler.

“Inevitably, the past year has been challenging for apprentices and businesses alike, and these declining figures reiterate the difficulties young apprentices have faced. Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles’ own apprenticeship scheme offers students tailored programmes to help develop their careers and tailor their learning, and we’d urge young people seeking a career in the industry to consider an apprenticeship as a great springboard for their future.”