David Wilkins, Chair of BACH and Director of Construction & Building Services, Bedford College

The British Association of Construction Heads (@BACHFEConstruct) has submitted its response to the Government’s consultation on future of level 2 and below qualifications and programmes; setting out its significant concerns over the future of proper training for the construction sector if the Government decides to cut funding.

“It’s vitally important in construction that milestone progression from entry to and including level 2 is available, accessible and appropriately funded through study programmes and other routes. Without, it would be devastating for those wishing to access the industry and to get into employment. Entry to level 2 is a significant part of most Colleges’ construction provision. We also have large numbers of students that have poor or low-level achievements coming from schools that need extra help.” Says David Wilkins, Chair of BACH and Director of Construction & Building Services, Bedford College

The consultation on potential cuts in funding is at a time when construction will be short of people and the Government will be investing in building and infrastructure to help support the recovery from the Covid pandemic. We will be adding to the national skills shortage for the industry.

“There are 1.1 million jobs in the construction industry at level 2 and below and the Government’s new apprentices are predominantly at level 2. The level 2 and below workforce is a valued and critical backbone of the industry. These are good well-paid jobs that make an enormous contribution to the UK’s economy. We must continue to invest in these jobs.” Says Graham Hasting-Evans, a Chartered Civil Engineer and President of BACH.

Without having achieved an industry approved qualification or apprenticeship certificated pass, all of which are at level 2 or below, people will be unable to qualify for a CSCS card and therefore will not be able to work.

Any cuts in funding at level 2 and below by the Department of Education, the Combined Authorities and the local enterprise organisations will be disastrous for the future of the construction industry. BACH implores the Government and local funding organisation to think very seriously before cutting training in this most important of sectors.

This is at a time when construction will be short of people and the Government will be investing in building and infrastructure to help support the recovery from the Covid pandemic. We will be adding to the national skills shortage for the industry.

  • By the mid-2020s the economy overall will still have 3.69 million jobs that only require level 1 skills and 6.13 million jobs that only require level 2 skills [source Government forecasts]. Combined level 1 and 2 will represent 27.8% of the entire workforce. There is a strong economic case for training and qualifying people for these jobs at level 2 and below. Specifically in construction 0.5 million jobs have either people with no qualification or just a level 1 qualification. There are 0.6 million employed at level 2 making the combine level 2 and below workforce as 1.1 million. They are the backbone of the sector and the majority of the craft and operative workforce.
  • This structure of the industry is reflected in the new Apprenticeship Standards. In construction the current structure of Apprenticeship Standards is that for many trades they are set at level 2 with no natural progression to level 3. It must also be appreciated that the construction sector is a ‘carded’ industry. Learners must have a recognised qualification at level 2 or below or an apprenticeship ‘pass’ certificate in order to be issued with a CSCS or CSCS partner SMART card. Without such a card they cannot be employed.
  • The type of learners and apprentices in construction are practically based not academic. They need support through Entry and level 1, as well as more generally employability skills, to get them on to a level 2 apprenticeship or programme of learning. Entry and level 1 progression is crucial. The need to develop practical skills from ‘scratch’ in order to enable further skill development at levels 2 and 3 is vitally important as attaining higher practical skills are not inherent in Entry level learners; they have to be nurtured.
  • It is understood that across the economy the Department has a long-term aim of increasing the percentage of people with a level 3 qualification. However, laudable as this may be, it cannot happen overnight and is inappropriate for all sectors. We are concerned that the Department’s current consultation on funding for level 2 and below will result in a curtailment of the funding. This is matched by a concern that Combined Authorities and LEPs are already starting to curtail funding for level 2 and below in AEB.
  • We ask the Department to urgently confirm that funding for Level 2 and below will continue for the construction sector and encourage the Combined Authorities and LEPs to also provide funding from AEB for Level 2 and below for our important sector.

If we do not take urgent action now we are in danger of creating long term damage to training in the sector as well as not being able to provide industry with the skills it requires.

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