Despite the current high rates of unemployment, many SMEs in the construction industry are struggling to find the right calibre of candidates with the right level of skills. Why?
It is mainly because they lack the HR and training resources that larger organisations have. For some SMEs with limited resources, even finding the right staff can be especially challenging, let alone putting in place a robust personnel development process to upskill existing staff.
This is a dilemma faced by SMEs across the board – whether it is a specialist subcontractor, plant hire company or a civils contractor. If a business is unable to find the right talent, it will be unable to grow and the situation will impact the bottom line.
In order to prevent this issue becoming a problem, large numbers of SMEs are turning to apprenticeships to fill this void. According to the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), one in five employers are hiring apprentices.
One of the beauties of the contemporary apprenticeship is that it covers a wide range of skills from business administration to traditional site trades, so the whole spectrum of construction-related business is covered.
The process of securing an apprentice begins with a training provider working in consultation with the employer to understand the specific requirements for the apprenticeship programme.
Next the training provider advertises the apprenticeship vacancy – at no cost to the employer – and then begin shortlisting candidates. Applicants are screened to ensure they fit the requirements for the role. The most suitable candidates will then be sent over to the employer for interview.
“One of the beauties of the contemporary apprenticeship is that it covers a wide range of skills from business administration to traditional site trades”
Once the applicant is selected, the next stage is for the training company to tailor the training framework with the employer to include units that meet the exact requirements of the employer.
To bridge the skills gap, companies can also now choose to develop their own programmes with a training provider.
As well as traditional trade apprenticeships, management and leadership, business administration and sales have recently been particularly popular for construction companies who have been looking to strengthen their skillset in the office.
Last but not least, there is also a £1,500 government grant to support wage costs as a sweetener for organisations looking to secure apprentices.
And what are the benefits of apprenticeships to youngsters? With youth unemployment at record levels, an apprenticeship can play a pivotal role in helping them to secure on the job training to gain ‘real world’ working skills while getting paid for it.
Many unemployed youngsters complain that employers offer work to those who have experience – but of course to gain experience you would need to have worked. Apprenticeships are the solution to this classic chicken and egg scenario.
Rachael Fidler is founder of HTP Training