Apprenticeships have been a key element of workforce development in the construction industry for many years. According to the National Employer Survey, there are more apprenticeships in construction than any other, with an average of 109 per 1000 employees.
While parts of the sector are long standing advocates of apprenticeships, the same cannot be said for every sub-sector. The powerful impact of the continuing skills shortage, the current uncertainty of labour markets caused by Brexit and an ever-ageing workforce means there has never been a more important time to ensure that all staff are equipped with the right skills.
Apprenticeships are an important way of developing the skill sets of existing staff or plugging a skills gap by recruiting new talent. Regardless of where you are in your apprenticeship maturity, it is important to ensure you have taken the right steps and considered the risks and opportunities for your business.
How does the sector engage with apprenticeships in construction?
According to the National Employer Survey, 2 out of 5 industry vacancies are due to an applicant’s lack of skills, qualifications or experience. This shows us that even the oncoming pipeline of skills isn’t adequate for the industry’s requirements.
By training and upskilling both experienced and new apprentice hires, construction organisations can build a robust talent pipeline. This is particularly important given that 74 per cent of those who complete apprenticeships go on to remain with that business, proving they are a sustainable investment.
The same survey also tells us that construction remains behind other industries in their training commitments, with only 48 per cent of workers receiving internal training, compared to the 60 per cent average in other sectors.
Whilst there is a wide level of awareness of apprenticeships in construction amongst construction employers (94 per cent), only 24 per cent of construction companies currently offer them. A further 32 per cent of businesses are planning to offer them in the future. These figures suggest that there is something deterring the industry from fully engaging with apprenticeships as a key business tool.
The diverse nature of the industry means many may not consider apprenticeships are appropriate for them due to the size of the workforce and its affordability. However, for many, apprenticeships provide an opportunity to ensure employers have the necessary skills, using the funding available for existing and new employees.
Why else should employers invest their time in developing programmes for apprenticeships in construction?
Workforce benefits with apprenticeships:
- Address skills gaps by cultivating what is needed rather than what is available.
- Do not have to be just for new staff. They can be used to develop, upskill and progress the existing high-quality workforce. By investing in current staff, employers can dramatically improve staff retention.
- Create an internal talent pipeline reducing the need for recruitment costs.
- Improve staff morale and wellbeing.
- Create a culture of continuous development.
- Improve operational productivity and quality.
- Are a commitment to social inclusion.
- Help with diversification of workforces. In hiring staff that need development and training, employers can eliminate the need for their staff to have invested in training themselves – this results in much clearer social mobility.
Assessing the business risk
Regardless of your apprenticeship maturity, managing the associated risk is critical. Organisations need to ask themselves the right questions to frame their thinking. We’ve outlined the main maturity levels below:
|①||You see value in apprenticeships but haven’t launched a programme|
|②||You’ve bought into the idea of an apprenticeship but need a strategy|
|③||You have a digital account but have queries / need to troubleshoot issues|
|④||You need to appoint training providers who deliver quality and value
|⑤||You need / want to continuously monitor performance to keep apprenticeships in line with objectives
|⑥||You want to distribute levy funds through the supply chain|
There is no one right way to implement or develop an apprenticeships strategy. Defining what your goals are with your strategy, with defined objectives and measurable business impact will ensure your long-term vision is maintained.
As a starting point, ensuring that your business is paying the correct apprenticeship levy is critical. Your strategy should then ensure that your business is making the most of the levy and utilising available funds effectively.
The Open University Business Barometer recently found that 62 per cent of engineering and construction employers expect to hire more apprentices in the next 12 months. This means you should start building your understanding of how they can add value to your business now, to stay ahead in the future.