The widely reported skills crisis and lack of fresh recruits in construction is not new news to us, and most recently the Chartered Institute of Building stated that the industry will need to find 157,000 new recruits by 2021 to keep up with demand.
Apprenticeships are a vital part of the solution. They play a crucial role in helping businesses grow and prosper and are at the heart of the government’s drive to equip people of all ages with the skills employers need. They provide the opportunity, and the means, to help address skills shortages.
We know that the construction sector has an ageing workforce and that there is lots more work to do to ensure we build apprenticeships that work for the industry. At the National Apprenticeship Service, we are in constant dialogue with employers across the sector to ensure their needs are being met, while helping them attract the right talent and boost the quality of candidates applying for apprenticeships.
This summer, after a rigorous development process, new high-quality bricklayer and plasterer apprenticeship standards have been signed off. These new standards have been designed by employers and will give apprentices the skills the construction sector needs.
They are longer in duration and cover a broader range of knowledge and hands-on skills. The Institute for Apprenticeships will continue to make sure construction apprenticeships are of a high standard and that quality is maintained across the board.
New apprenticeship standards that have also been recently introduced range across technician, design and engineering disciplines, with many more planned to ensure diverse routes into the industry. We are working closely with employers who lead the development of these standards to make sure we get the right training for the industry.
Apprentices bring enthusiasm, energy and fresh ideas to any organisation, contributing to its development and success. As well as encouraging a more diverse range of people into construction from a young age, apprenticeships also encourage skilled workers to progress their careers in the industry too.
“78 per cent of employers state that productivity has improved from taking on an apprentice, and 86 per cent say apprenticeships developed skills relevant to their organisation”
Since the apprenticeship levy and other reforms were introduced last year, there has been a period of significant change for employers and there will understandably be challenges for them as they adjust and respond.
Throughout this time, we must not lose sight of why we introduced our reforms in the first place: to put quality at the heart of this programme for apprentices and control in the hands of employers. Feedback shows that employers are positive about the reforms and are taking their time to plan high-quality, well thought through apprenticeship provision that meets their specific needs.
We appreciate that apprenticeships are just one of the solutions, but many construction employers have already made them a vital part of their strategic plans to recruit the skills they need in the future.
JCB has recently invested £7.5m in its largest ever intake of new apprentices, including higher apprentices that will go on to study at degree level. Firms including Balfour Beatty and Laing O’Rourke now offer degree apprenticeships in disciplines from construction to project management to engineering. And last summer the first ever quantity surveyor degree apprentices graduated from Liverpool John Moores University – an important milestone.
Apprenticeships are not just for large companies, with many SMEs in construction benefiting. In fact, 78 per cent of employers state that productivity has improved from taking on an apprentice, and 86 per cent say apprenticeships developed skills relevant to their organisation. Moreover, we know that apprenticeships contribute towards increasing employee satisfaction, reducing staff turnover and saving on recruitment costs.
To find out how you can benefit from apprentices, visit Hire an Apprentice or call 0800 0150 600.
Karen Woodward is deputy director of the National Apprenticeship Service