How apprentices can provide benefits to the construction industry

25th July 2018
Posted By : Anna Flockett
How apprentices can provide benefits to the construction industry

Within the construction industry, experts have noted considerable concern for the fact that the sector is currently struggling with a lack of skilled workers. According to City & Guilds, 87% of employers last year were already having difficulty in recruiting the required skilled workers their business needs. Plus, as revealed by Construction News, official figures reveal that 12.6% of the UK's workforce within construction come from abroad.

Of that number, 5.7% of those workers come from the EU. But when the investigation shifted to London, it was found that that number rose to a massive 60%. On top of that, British-born construction workers may soon be even shorter supply, as 30% of British construction workers are now over the age of 50. This means that businesses and companies are likely to feel the impact of those people leaving and retiring in the coming years, especially with Brexit drawing closer.

With a shortage already in place, and the prospect of even steeper shortages to come in the next few years, where does the construction industry stand? What can be put in place now in order to combat the effects of workplace shortages that are forecast for the coming years?

Luckily, experts believe that they may have found a solution to the skilled worker shortage in the form of apprentices. Apprenticeships could be more crucial than ever before, and even more so once Brexit comes into effect for the country. National 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 skilled worker employee shortage?

The construction industry is no stranger to apprenticeship schemes and programmes, as the construction and manufacturing industry is one of the most popular choices for aspiring apprentices. But are they really the solution the industry has been waiting for? And if so, what can the industry do to implement a strong apprenticeship workforce now that they can become the skilled workers of tomorrow?

Niftylift, who support the construction industry with their range of access platforms and other elevating work platforms, have investigated the issue further, including how apprentices can provide benefits to the industry. This article also looks into the attitudes towards apprenticeships, as well as feedback from employers that have already started to bring apprentices into their workplace.

Statistics show that the top five sectors for starting apprenticeships include industries such as Engineering and Manufacturing, Construction, Planning, and the Built Environment. 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. Clearly, there is a good, solid foundation in place for the continued rise in apprenticeship interest, particularly for the construction industry.    

In regards to the report, Karen Jones, Group HR Director at Redrow, commented 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.”

We may also see progress in the success of apprenticeships thanks to the new apprenticeship levy that was put in place last year. The levy brings in a new way to help fund apprenticeship programmes, making it a more appealing choice for prospective apprenticeships and businesses. 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 in skilled workers.

UK Construction Media reported promising figures that seem to reflect the success apprenticeships can give to companies in the construction sector. A massive 86% of employers say that apprenticeships are actively contributing towards the development of relevant skills within their company. A further 78% of employers say that they believe apprenticeships help improve productivity in the workplace.

To support this, Chris Wood, CEO of Develop Training, has expressed his own confidence in apprenticeship programmes, and said that they were working well: “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.”

The CEO also added to this that: “New initiatives such as Trailblazer Apprenticeships and the Apprenticeship Levy have raised awareness across the UK. Even so, and despite huge skills shortages, manyemployers 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.”

To attempt to forecast what is to come, it is likely that we will see apprenticeships as they key to not only success within the industry, but a pivotal part in addressing the problem of skilled worker shortages. Downing Street has committed itself to creating 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.

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