Apprenticeships are vital in developing the skills needed to sustain a prosperous construction industry. All evidence indicates that it is becoming more and more difficult for young people to enter construction through the traditional route of a 3 or 4 year apprenticeship. Figures from the sector skills council ConstructionSkills show the number of new start apprentices in 2011 fell to its lowest level of just 4,348.
UCATT is campaigning to ensure all major public sector contracts are only awarded to contractors committed to delivering proper employer-led and workplace-based apprenticeships. This will not only help get young people into work but the economy benefits too. The National Audit Office estimates that every one pound spent on apprenticeships returns between £16 and £21 pounds into the economy.
We cannot escape the fact that the make-up of the industry prevents sufficient numbers of apprentices being trained. UCATT demands that the issue of false self-employment is dealt with and that direct employment is the main method of employing construction workers. Only then will we witness the sizeable numbers of apprentices entering the construction industry that are so badly needed.
UCATT calls for:
Stronger procurement rules requiring apprentices to be employed on public jobs.
Additional funding to support construction apprenticeships.
More SME involvement in apprenticeship schemes.
Tighter regulation of self-employment.
Better funding of adult apprenticeships.
UCATT argues that the fragmentation of the construction industry is failing apprenticeships. The reduction of directly employed workers, more subcontracting and greater use of agencies and gangmasters, has left no room for apprentices to train. UCATT commissioned a report Apprenticeships – A Firm Foundation by Steve Davies, Cardiff University, to examine the growing skills crisis in construction and the barriers to participation in apprenticeships.
Ineffective Government Response
The UK Government has recently put great emphasis on apprentices but really most of the expansion has been in areas such as retail and care work. Large companies are queuing up to get funding to rebrand existing company in-house training schemes and are renaming staff that they already employ as apprentices. When supermarket giant Morrisons categorise some 40% of their staff as apprentices, then this devalues apprenticeships. These are not apprenticeships as we recognise them – with some schemes lasting just 6 months.
Construction must play a key role in any economic recovery. Training apprentices now is the only way to deliver the skills needed to rebuild our infrastructure when the economy improves.
Figures obtained by UCATT in early 2015 reveal that the failure to train construction apprentices is even worse than feared. In 2013/14 just 8,030 people completed a construction apprenticeship. At a time when the industry needs 45,000 new entrants every year just to stand still.
A Freedom of Information request made by UCATT revealed an even worse picture in 2014/15 there were just 24,850 people undertaking construction apprenticeships (some of these will not complete their course). The vast majority 19,830 were undertaking intermediate level apprenticeships (Level 2). Only 5,190 were undertkaing an advanced level apprenticeship (Level 3). A futher 130 were undertaking a higher apprenticeship (Level 4).
Guide: Blacklisting and public procurement
Our new guide seeks to assist UCATT members in lobbying to stop public contracts going to firms that have blacklisted workers and have not made up for it. Download the Blacklisting & Public Procurement Guide now.