Are apprenticeships the answer to construction skills shortage?

Are apprenticeships the answer to construction skills shortage?

This week Britain celebrates the National Apprenticeship Week, co-ordinated by the National Apprenticeship Service and designed to celebrate apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses and the wider economy. This year, the NAW has a particular focus on higher skills to show how young people, entrepreneurs and businesses can “rise to the top” through traineeships and apprenticeships. The Government is backing the apprenticeships schemes as well and has committed to creating 3m apprenticeships by 2020, and reforms are under way to raise the standards of roles and training.

Understandably, there are a few reservations when it comes to apprenticeships: back in the day they were a widely respected route to a career, a promise of iron-clad professionalism. Completing an apprenticeship took years and at the end of the training, the apprentice had become a master. But suddenly, the scheme took a turn and apprenticeships were considered to be for those who didn’t have what it took to go to university, forever playing second fiddle to higher education, a second-rate route to a career. Shaking this view has taken a lot of work. Now, apprenticeships are getting a media-makeover as well as a bold backing from the Government and they are again being considered as an option in getting on the career ladder. So, knowing that the construction industry is suffering from a serious skills shortage, we ask: Could apprenticeships be the answer?

New stats released by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) claim construction apprenticeships across Great Britain are up 12%, meaning 22,496 young people started construction apprenticeships in the past year as opposed to 19,973 in the year before. A separate CITB survey of 1500 construction employers across the UK showed that 78% of employers rated their apprentices’ work as good or very good, compared with 73% for graduates and 59% for FE leavers.

And it is fairly easy to see why:, a website dedicated to alternative routes to education and careers than attending university has at present almost 300 apprenticeships vacancies on their books. Go Construct, an industry-wide initiative aiming to attract, inform and retain a talented workforce for the Construction and Built Environment sector weighs in with a robust career selector on their site – where apprentices can search for different roles and qualifications. Construction giants like Carillon and Balfour Beatty proudly standing in support of NAW and solidifying their own apprenticeship programmes.

With the apprenticeship programmes finally shedding its bad rep as a second-rate career option, apprenticeships look to be a serious contender in bringing in those much needed construction professionals.

With the strong government backing and the push from companies to recruit more apprentices to their fold, it seems that apprenticeships are again becoming a valid route to the construction industry. If the trend continues, the much needed numbers of skilled workers are looking to swell in the coming years, but this does not mean that apprenticeships will make university educated workforce redundant. To meet the challenge of the skills shortage the industry needs skilled workers from both backgrounds, and more options on how to gain those skills can only be a good thing.

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