Dexter reflects on this years annual lecture

This week Edge co-hosted its annual lecture with the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng). The long awaited event discussed how the Institute for Apprenticeships plans to deliver on its promise. Our venue was the RAEng’s headquarters, part of the Nash terrace overlooking St James’s Park which while retaining its 19th century grandeur is ‘teched up’, as you might expect from a society of engineers. The event kicked off with a welcome from RAEng’s CEO, Philip Greenish, followed by a short speech from Edge Chair, Lord Baker who introduced our guest speaker Toby Peyton-Jones. Toby is not only a member of the board of the Institute for Apprenticeships, but is also an Edge trustee and HR Director at Siemens.

Toby, a very well-spoken man, was a great speaker for the event and kept the audience very engaged throughout. Making some extremely good points, Toby managed to provoke great discussion both at the event and on Twitter with one user tweeting, ‘Toby Peyton-Jones spoke extremely well & gave us all hope ’.

Toby highlighted how apprentices’ tend to possess valuable metaskills. He said that Siemens recently changed their motor powered wind turbines to electric ones. Usually this would mean changing the engineers as well! However, in its recruitment, Siemens places a huge emphasis on skills – flexibility, problem solving - so their engineers have the ability to adapt and work with electric motors instead. He said that because apprentices have experience of hands-on learning, they are better equipped with the speed and adaptability needed for the 21st century workplace.

Two quotes that stood out to me and many others on Twitter were, ‘You won’t get your money back from the Levy, you’ll get your money back from the apprentice.’ and ‘The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.’ This quote was Toby’s way of saying that rather than lamenting that we haven’t got it right in the past, we need to act today to make the change.

After Toby’s speech, Edge’s CEO, Alice Barnard, welcomed an invited panel on to the stage. The panel included Toby and myself, Sanna Shabir, an engineering apprentice from global design, engineering and project management company Atkins, Rebecca Plant from training provider QA Apprenticeships and Richard Folkson who started his career with Ford at its apprentice training school at the Dagenham Assembly Plant and went on to become the company’s Chief Engineer. Alice questioned the panel before opening up questions to the audience who didn’t hesitate in grilling the panel. After everyone had their burning questions answered the event drew to a close.

The conversation continued on Twitter and Jayne’s article managed to keep this ember burning.