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Specialist apprenticeships are little known but much loved

The current economic climate provides challenges to construction, but longer-term predictions denote strong growth for the industry.

This will mean there is more demand for specialist workers over the next decade in response to changing construction methods and innovations.

Specialist contractors are heavily involved in all types of construction and the sector employs an estimated 190,000 operatives - a significant contribution to the industry’s annual turnover.

Within the specialist sector a minority sub sector exists, which consists of trades such as drilling and sawing and dry lining, where the nature of the work and relatively small operative population means there can be a lack of training provision - and high costs.

ConstructionSkills has introduced specialist apprenticeships, developed in areas where previously none were available, where recruits can get their S/NVQ level 2. They include drilling and sawing, road safety marking, façade preservation, land drilling, and passive fire protection. A further 10 are likely to be developed this year including industrial concrete flooring, chimney engineering and load bearing steel frame systems.

For the first time in many years, the specialist sectors can provide young entrants with formal training that covers both technical competence and safety considerations.

The introduction of these apprenticeships has relied heavily on the support of manufacturers and trade associations, independent consultants and accreditation schemes.  To ensure the continuing success of these programmes it is critical that these valuable training partners are recognised and adequate public sector funding made available.

The Sector Skills Council has so far done a good job of developing the training we need and securing funding but the demands on the specialist sector are only likely to increase.  

The steady growth in the sector and the development of qualifications illustrates how our industry is constantly evolving. And despite economic uncertainty, we must continue to make this a priority to allow future growth.

Stuart Littlefair is specialist manager at ConstructionSkills

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