Research reveals huge number of classroom construction courses but dearth of apprenticeships

Construction union UCATT has discovered that while 167, 000 young people started training courses for jobs in the construction industry in 2014/15, in that same year only 18,000 secured an apprenticeship in the building trades. 

These shocking figures were divulged – via a UCATT Freedom of Information request - by the Government’s Skills Funding Agency which showed that on average, around 150,000 students a year start a course in construction and yet a mere 12 per cent get an apprenticeship. Government money in funding these students is being poured down the drain.

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) has revealed that the construction industry needs 46,400 new entrants every year for the next five years. And that figure is relatively modest. During a boom year, like 2008, the CITB forecast was that 75,000 new entrants were required.

Even if young people can secure an apprenticeship the drop-out levels are close to 50 per cent. In 2014/15 18,140 apprentices were undertaking training for an NVQ 3 but only 8,030 had actually achieved this benchmark level the previous year in 2013/14 and could embark on a career in construction. 

UCATT Acting General Secretary, Brian Rye, said: “I’m horrified by these figures. What a waste of talent and Government money, to take these young people through a course and then have them ignored by the construction industry. We have a well-documented skills shortage in the construction industry and we have major constructors failing to take on apprentices. And yet hundreds of thousands of young people who want to work in the industry, who have taken the first step into the industry by taking a course – are just left on the scrap heap.”

Of the 167,970 students who started a construction course in 2014/15, 136,960 were at General FE colleges and tertiary colleges, 19,780 were in private colleges funded by the public sector, and 11,240 were social enterprises.

The figures are particularly alarming as the only recognised qualification in the construction industry is the NVQ and these can only be secured if the trainee is undertaking regular onsite training. The certificates issued for people who take a classroom based course are considered by the industry to have no value.

Without an NVQ a worker cannot obtain the correct CSCS card which means that they cannot get access to the majority of organised sites and has a huge effect on their pay potential.

Mr Rye added: “This is a calamity for the British construction industry. Young people are being thrown to the wind. Hundreds of thousands of talented, enthusiastic young people are having their career hopes dashed by a complacent and self-serving industry. UCATT is calling on the major constructors in this country to make contact with these colleges, meet the students and start giving the best ones a chance in the industry. In an industry crying out for skilled labour we need to act now. It really isn’t rocket science.” 

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