Interview with Ann Watson, Chief Executive, Semta

Q: It’s lovely to catch up with you, Ann. A lot has happened since we last spoke in 2017! We saw a very strong end to the UK manufacturing industry last year.

I can scarcely believe that it’s been a year since the last time you interviewed me! It’s been an eventful year, to say the least, and this year promises to be even more eventful than 2017 as it’s the Year of Engineering. When I spoke to you last year, I said we needed to get the good news stories about UK engineering out there – well, we’ve got a fantastic opportunity to do that now. We need to take the momentum generated by the strength of the sector and use it to show people just what a good opportunity a career in engineering offers.

Q I have seen some of Semta’s superb work on the apprenticeship side already in 2018. What have you got in store for the year ahead?

Apprenticeships will, of course, be a key focus for us in 2018 – they’re such an important way for engineering employers to bring new talent into the sector, and increasingly also to upskill existing workers with the new skills they need. We’re working hard to get the message out there to employers of all sizes – our new Organisational Needs Analysis tool is an easy first step for them to take to fully understand their skills needs and how they can be met. We’re also here to help employers when it comes to the apprenticeship levy, whether it’s understanding how the funding system operates or whether it’s finding the right apprenticeship framework or standard to fit their needs.

 Q: You’ve mentioned the Year of Engineering campaign, which sounds like a great opportunity for the sector. What’s Semta’s role in the campaign and how will you be celebrating it?

It’s a government and industry campaign aimed at reaching young people, so we’ll be doing what we can to promote the campaign through our social media, emails, website and other digital platforms, and encouraging the employers we work with to do the same. We’re enhancing and relaunching our STEM Exchange and STEM Experience to help to strengthen links between engineering and education and to give young people opportunities to get a taste of what a career in the sector would offer them. We’re also encouraging apprentice members of our Industry Apprentice Council to get involved – we’ll be featuring blog pieces by them throughout the year and they’ll be getting involved in all sorts of events, from careers talks to STEM ambassadorship. Watch this space!

Q: We are all very excited about the Semta Skills Awards in 2018. Could you tell us why the Awards are so important to Semta and to the sector? How do you go about choosing the winners of the awards?

The Year of Engineering means that these awards are the most important we’ve ever done, and I’m delighted that the Skills Minister, Anne Milton MP, will be joining us to deliver the keynote speech. The awards are the biggest celebration of engineering skills that there is – we’ll have over 500 guests from industry and other key stakeholders in the room with us on the night to celebrate the very best of British engineering. The awards prove beyond any doubt that technically skilled people are talented, dedicated and brilliant.  The winners and all those shortlisted, are fantastic role models for others. The winners are all chosen by an expert employer panel. They want to see evidence of real passion for their craft, and real dedication to improving themselves and their business – people who go above and beyond.

Q: Thank you so much for your time today, Ann. One final question. How can engineering companies get involved with Semta if they are currently looking for an apprentice to join their team?   

Call us on 0845 643 9001 or email [email protected] – it really is that simple! Or go onto our website and use our Organisational Needs Analysis tool. We’re here to help – it doesn’t matter how big or small your company is, or where you’re based, if you have a skills need to meet, we are the people you need to speak to about it.