According to many experts, the construction industry is experiencing a problem with skilled workers — there aren’t enough of them. City & Guilds, a global leader in skills development, states that that 87% of employers in 2017 found it difficult to recruit the skilled workers that they needed. 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.
But, could the solution to the skills-shortage issue lie in apprenticeships? Apprenticeships could be more crucial than ever, especially following Brexit. Nation 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 employee shortage?
Construction, Planning and the Built Environment — alongside Engineering and Manufacturing — show the greatest number of apprenticeship starts. 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. There was even a 14% increase in young people considering a career in the industry.
“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,” commented Karen Jones, group HR director at Redrow.
Clearly, there are successes in the field of apprenticeships, which is hoped to carry on thanks to a new way of funding apprenticeship programmes. While 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.
But are apprentices really as useful to an employer as other workers? Research suggest that they are. According to UK Construction Media, 86% of employers say that apprenticeships are helping them develop skills relevant to their organisation and 78% believe they improve productivity.
“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,” commented Chris Wood, CEO of Develop Training.
He went on to say: “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.”
Since the construction industry is struggling to fill its desired workforce, apprentices could be the fast and efficient solution the sector needs. 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.
This article was researched and produced by Niftylift, a leading UK retailer of cherry pickers.