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CN Briefing: Building Lives; skills; apprenticeships; podcast

The growing unease around the apprenticeship levy is perhaps best manifested in a disused garage in the heart of a Camden Council estate.

Today, the site is used as a Building Lives academy. A place where young people are learning trades, getting their CSCS cards and most importantly, getting into work.

Soon, it may lie vacant. The people learning construction skills may be unemployed. Its staff may be seeking new jobs.

I visited the academy recently with CN’s features editor Dan Kemp.

There, we were both impressed by not only the fearlessness of some of the people training at the academy, but also the will on all sides to get these people into employment.

This is not an organisation that ticks boxes. Frankly, it’s an organisation that from the outside can sometimes seem a little chaotic.

But the challenge of getting 3 million people into apprenticeships won’t be overcome by ticking boxes, otherwise this perceived crisis wouldn’t have been spoken about for decades now.

People need to feel that they can change their lives for the better in this industry; that they can have a sustained career.

National Housing Federation chief executive David Orr is the chairman of Building Lives.

He tells me there is frustration out there with the new apprenticeship levy. There are too many concerns to get into here.

Employers want to back organisations like Building Lives which don’t tick all the boxes, but deliver results.

But they can’t. Instead they’re paying into a levy system which, rightly or wrongly, demands that you meet certain criteria.

We also still don’t know how the proposed levy will work in construction.

One chief executive told me this week that firms should be allowed to get on with getting apprentices into work. 

The caveat there being that were this to happen, perhaps we’d need to see employers being more forthright about the numbers of young people they’re getting into work.

One such employer, Swift, is a London contractor. It’s taken on seven young people from Building Lives and put them to work - paid work.

Building Lives is not the only organisation doing good work and getting young people into the industry. It may not be the best but it’s getting results, and it should be worth saving as a result.

Listen to the #loveLIVES – One Year On podcast here.

In the news

Read how Galliford Try is creating a waste transfer station inside an old warehouse to help shift refuge from Merseyside to Teesside.

National Infrastructure Commission chair Andrew Adonis is pleased the government will make the National Infrastructure Commission statutory and independent. Hear about the work being done by the NIC when commissioner Sadie Morgan addressed this year’s two-day CN Summit.

Catch up

Dan Kemp was invited to Didcot Power Station on Sunday for a short service to mark the end of Coleman and Company’s work on the site. Read his thoughts on a sombre day.


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