From education to employment

#Apprenticeships have never been so important: Providing a skilled construction workforce

Christian Snaith, Industrial Programme Manager, Skills Group

Skills Group’s Industrial Programme Manager, Christian Snaith, offers his views on how apprenticeships and the encouragement of new talent into the Construction sector have never been so important to continue to feed the industry and to provide a skilled future workforce: 

There has been wide coverage that there is a growing skills shortage within the construction sector, with a decline in new entrants and an increasing number of industry workers over the age of 55.

However, development is at a high – construction already accounts for 2.6 million jobs in the UK with an expected growth of almost 3% in the next five years.

In our local region, Plymouth alone is predicted to need 10,000 additional construction jobs by 2020 thanks to large developments throughout the city and surrounding areas*.

This includes the construction of a new town, Sherford, which will see 5,500 new homes being built.

A viable alternative to traditional study methods

Construction apprenticeships provide a viable alternative to traditional study methods, offering a wide variety of placements across all key sector areas from carpentry and bricklaying to plastering.

Not only do apprenticeships deliver all the mandatory qualifications, but they also expose learners to the industry early, getting them out on the job to pick up essential hands on skills and working practices.

The logistics of apprenticeships vary, however all learners spend a minimum of 20% of the time participating in off-the-job training to study the essential skills, including all aspects of housebuilding such as footings, roofing and drainage.

The rest is spent out with the employer, working on real jobs in real working conditions. To benefit the employer, the Government has just announced a change to apprenticeship funding, aiming to encourage small and medium sized businesses to invest in apprenticeships.

Employer contribution towards apprenticeships has dropped from 10% to 5% – now making it even more affordable to train apprentices across a wider age range in the sector.

Moving from Apprenticeship Frameworks to Apprenticeship Standards

There has also recently been significant changes to training in the sector, moving from Apprenticeship Frameworks to Apprenticeship Standards. Frameworks had previously been designed around a range of units, with a test or a SPA(Synoptical Practical Assessment) at the end of each unit, creating exam ready learners.

However, the new Standards are occupation focused, not qualification led, emphasising core behaviours that are expected to be displayed by a skilled workforce.

The Standards have been carefully developed by a select group of employers for employers to bridge the gap and target the skills shortages that the construction and housebuilding industries are currently facing.

The employer decides when the learner is ready for the end point assessment – an independent assessment at the end of the apprenticeship – testing all key attributes and competencies needed for the industry.

A skilled workforce for the future

Apprenticeships offer a credible and thorough training process to help create a skilled workforce for the future. Through providing on-the-job training, apprenticeships are able to directly feed projects through supplying extra man power, while at the same time allowing learners to develop essential industry skills that are quickly put into practice.

Through the employer contribution reduction, it is now also more affordable to invest in apprenticeships, creating more opportunities for apprenticeship vacancies and to grow the workforce.

Christian Snaith, Industrial Programme Manager, Skills Group

*Figures from Devon and Cornwall Training Provider Network 

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