Amy Hodgetts, Copywriter for Niftylift Ltd explores just how apprentices contribute to the UK’s construction industry
City & Guilds has revealed that 87% of employers within the construction industry are facing a dire problem. There is a notable shortage of skilled workers in the industry and that is leading to problems when it comes to recruitment. Construction News supported this finding, with data showing that 12.6% of the UK’s construction workforce originates
from overseas, with 5.7% coming from the EU. Within London, this total comes to 60%.
Additionally, of the current British-born workforce in construction, 30% are over the age of 50. This raises the issue of retirement and what companies will need to do to plan for those who will be leaving soon. Experts seem to think that apprentices could solve the problem. Apprenticeships could be more crucial than ever before, especially following Brexit. Nation Apprenticeship Week was at the beginning of March and with an influx of publicity circulating, it has encouraged employers to think about the future of their workforces – could apprentices fill the employee shortage? The top five sectors for apprenticeship starts includes engineering and manufacturing courses and construction, planning and the built environment courses.
In the 2016/17 academic year, the engineering and manufacturing sector witnessed 74,000 starts, while the construction sector had 21,000. Leading UK housebuilder, Redrow, released its second annual research report which revealed that thanks to a positive shift in attitudes and the perception of construction, the apprenticeship pathway has improved, with a 14% increase in young people considering a career in the sector.
Regarding the report, Karen Jones, Group HR Director at Redrow, comments that: “This year’s results illustrate that apprenticeships and careers in construction are being viewed in a more positive light.
“Apprenticeships are a way of futureproofing the UK workforce, particularly in sectors where there is a skills shortage, such as construction, so it is pleasing to see that progress is being made.”
A new levy was introduced for apprenticeships last year, so the success of apprenticeship programmes is predicted to continue due to the new funding methods the levy will support. Whilst some employers have snubbed the new levy as just being ‘another tax’, both large and small employers can benefit from the fund, meaning that 90% of apprenticeship training costs are funded by the government.
Furthermore, employers within the construction sector can use up to 10% of the funding to train employees across the full supply chain – something not to be snubbed with the current shortage of skilled workers.
UK Construction Media says that apprenticeships are certainly showing results: 86% of employers say that apprenticeships are helping them develop relevant skills and 78% think the schemes help improve productivity.
Chris Wood, CEO of Develop Training, voiced his confidence in apprenticeship programmes by saying: “Working with some of the UK’s largest utility firms, our success rates have been very high. We and our customers have no doubt that, managed well, apprenticeships do work.”
He also says: “New initiatives such as Trailblazer Apprenticeships and the Apprenticeship Levy have raised awareness across the UK. Even so and despite huge skills shortages, many employers are still only scratching the surface of what they could be doing to use apprenticeships to attract new people to join the industry and improve the skills of existing employees.”
There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that apprenticeships could be the way forward for a sector struggling to deal with a lack of skilled workers. Downing Street has committed itself to create three million new apprenticeships by 2020. The construction industry could be on the receiving end of a large chunk of those programmes, which will be an opportunity to deliver a new generation of highly skilled workers – something that the industry is experiencing a lack of right now. In fact, the Director of the National Apprentice Service,
Sue Husband, predicts that 2018 will be crucial for programmes. As more opportunities become available, now could be the time to cut yourself a slice of the apprenticeship programme success – and secure your future workforce now.