09/03/2018 – National Apprenticeship Week

 

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

As I write this, businesses up and down the country are celebrating National Apprenticeship Week (5-9 March) – a week for raising awareness and celebrating Apprenticeships and how rewarding they can be.

Apprenticeships give young people hands-on experience and the opportunity to gain qualifications whilst learning skills and gaining industry knowledge. They are a great combination of on- and off-site learning and experience, guided by tutors or mentors.

For such a long time, apprenticeships carried a very unjust stigma as an easy alternative to the academic route.  In fact, an apprenticeship is a structured programme of training and development, approved by government. At level two, an apprenticeship is worth five GCSEs and at level three it’s worth two A Levels.

I have voiced my opinion a number of times on the need for more opportunities for young people and for better training standards for those beginning their career in construction. Which is why I love weeks like this, where the whole industry pulls together to celebrate apprentices and works towards getting more apprentices into the industry. I love nothing more than celebrating the young people in our industry and love seeing the entries fly in each year for the Apprentice of the Year category in our Generation for Change (G4C) awards.

For decades the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) Levy has existed for our industry to help fund people training at work, including the costs of employing apprenticeships in the trades. However, in April last year, a new government Apprenticeships Levy was introduced for all sectors. This is designed to cover apprentice training fees and is open to all apprenticeship courses, including higher level courses. As a result, companies have a number of options to ensure they can recruit and train apprentices to suit their staffing needs.

A career in construction can be seriously rewarding to both the employee and the employer, according to the latest research by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) apprentices in the industry will go on to earn thousands of pounds more than many of their university-educated equivalents. Because the industry is in the midst of a skills shortage and the governments ambitious house building target, of building 300,000 homes each year quickly catching up to us, we need to commit to recruiting and training the right people to be anywhere near reaching the targets set.

It’s great to see that over the last few years, more and more UK construction companies have joined the 5% Club – a scheme promoting the employment of apprentices in the industry.  Balfour Beatty, Morgan Sindall and Laing O’Rourke have already committed to apprentices making up to and beyond 5% of their total workforce. You can’t tell me that’s an industry not wanting to support apprentices?

 For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk.