Apprenticeships are more crucial than ever before as construction experiences a shortage of skilled workers, with employers finding recruitment tough.
The construction industry is experiencing a huge shortage of skilled workers, with 87% of employers finding it difficult to recruit the right type of employee that they need, according to City & Guilds. According to Construction News, official figures show that 12.6% of UK construction workers come from overseas, with 5.7% originating from the EU. This rises to a staggering 60% in London. Furthermore, 30% of British-born construction workers are now over the age of 50, meaning businesses will feel the pinch of those departing over the coming years through retirement when Brexit comes into play.
However, some experts believe that apprentices could be the key. National Apprenticeship Week last March saw an influx of publicity circulating, which encouraged employers to think about the future of their workforces — could apprentices fill the employee shortage?
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Within the top 5 sectors for apprenticeship starts are engineering & manufacturing, planning and construction. In the 2016/17 academic year, the engineering & 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.
Speaking on the report, Karen Jones, Group HR Director at Redrow, said: “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.”
Success is set to continue, thanks to the new apprenticeship levy that was introduced recently to help fund apprenticeship programmes. 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 of skilled workers.
A whopping 86% of employers state that apprenticeships are helping them develop skills relevant to their business, with 78% saying that apprenticeships also help boost productivity, according to UK Construction Media.
Furthermore, Chris Wood, CEO of Develop Training, is confident that apprenticeship programmes are working: “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.”
He added: “New initiatives such as Trailblazer Apprenticeships and the Apprenticeship Levy have raised awareness across the UK. Even so, and despite huge skills shortages, many employers 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.”
In the future, fulfilling the demand in the construction industry could purely hinge on the success of the apprenticeship schemes being run up and down the country. 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.