Southampton-based cable and connector specialist PEI-Genesis recently sponsored an award at PETA’s Apprenticeship Vs Dragons’ Den Programme in a bid to inspire the next generation of technology apprentices. This event saw four students from Horndean Technology College, Hampshire, take the top prize for their carbon footprint tracker app idea.
A briefing paper published by the UK’s House of Commons stated that there were 23,400 fewer people participating in apprenticeships in 2019/20 compared to 2018/2019. While much of this is attributed to the Coronavirus lockdowns, statistics still show a steady decline in apprenticeship starts since 2014. This has created demand for 124,000 engineers and an additional requirement for 79,000 related roles, according to Engineering UK.
To improve engagement with local schools and promote apprenticeships, PETA launched the Apprenticeship Vs Dragons’ Den Programme. School teams were tasked with developing a product to solve one of modern life’s challenges, the winning product being an app to track your carbon footprint. To help sponsor prizes and fulfil the roles of Dragons, PETA approached spokespeople from local technology and engineering companies for support, including Kelly Sunderland, European HR director at PEI-Genesis.
“Having left school myself at 16, going straight into work instead of following traditional academic routes, I got the benefit of learning on the job. Furthermore, apprenticeships can open the doors to sponsored higher education qualifications. Having been sponsored through a bachelor’s and a master’s degree myself, I strongly advocate for apprenticeships and vocational career starts. Programmes like PETA’s Dragons’ Den offer school pupils insight into the alternative opportunities available to them after school in tech, business and engineering.
“As employers in the technology sphere, we often set too high a bar on the skills required from potential new hires. This programme proved to us that the attitudes, values and creativity of the candidates are just as, if not more, important for the world of work. The teams in the final showed the tenacity we look for in prospective employees and, when challenged by the Dragons, could articulate responses in a respectful and professional manner,” continues Sunderland.
PEI-Genesis currently employs seven apprentices across different disciplines and was asked to sponsor the Original Concept Award. This went to Portsmouth Academy for its 3-in-1 reduce, reuse and recycle machine, which aimed to reduce the amount of single waste we use, whilst providing our community with healthy refreshments. The student’s hope for a more eco-friendly environment won the team a £100 cash prize and a trophy.
“As a company, we are committed to inspiring the next generation of technology experts, so being asked to sponsor the Dragon’s Den event award was a no-brainer,” says Jonathan Parry, senior vice president and managing director Europe for PEI-Genesis. “PETA’s Dragons’ Den event gave our employees of the future an outlet to demonstrate their confidence and passion for innovation, as well as their knowledge in delivering a business strategy from concept to market. It’s been great to support these achievements and we look forward to seeing the event continue next year.”