NZ

The construction industry needs more apprentices

It’s no secret that there’s a skills shortage in construction. The construction industry is experiencing...

It’s no secret that there’s a skills shortage in construction. The construction industry is experiencing a boom right now with lucrative contracts, domestic and overseas, being awarded to British firms. To meet the increased demand, thousands of new workers are needed. The long-term solution is training new people up, and the education method to get the job done is the apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships are nothing new. They’ve been around since ancient times. The modern equivalent is Government-backed, and the statistics certainly show promise. In 2015/16, 25,000 people started an apprenticeship in construction. Employers get help too – CITB grant funding means up to £10,250 is available to employers for every NVQ Level 3 apprenticeship they take on.

However, despite the grants, and despite its promise, the Government’s drive to build a skilled workforce for the construction industry is failing. Not enough people are joining up and not enough employers are taking on those who have.

The skills shortage

We’re not telling a tale when we say there’s a skills shortage in construction. The issue is real and it has persisted for years.

So, let’s use an example that hits home – houses. The skills gap is driving up wages, limiting construction activity and taking skilled workers out of the reach of firms tasked with building affordable housing in the United Kingdom.

What this means is the construction companies who are contracted to build houses are struggling to recruit the workers who make them. Bricklayers, roofers, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, plasterers – name a trade, and there’s a shortage. The bottom line is it’s limiting construction activity and increasing labour costs.

The Federation of Master Builders agrees. They have said without skilled labour from the EU, coupled with the skills shortage in the UK, we’re going to “struggle” to build the 300,000 homes the Government wants building every year.

Meeting the shortage

The importance of apprenticeships for the future of the construction industry cannot be overstated. Employers provide around 90% of training on-the-job under an apprenticeship, with the rest made up in theory in the classroom. This level of training is unique to apprenticeships and optimal for creating a highly skilled workforce.

Simply put, it’s the only way to train people up for life in the trade.

The construction industry needs more apprentices (in all roles – especially bricklaying) to meet growing demand. The recent boom experienced in the industry is here to stay if huge infrastructure projects (such as High Speed 2 rail link) keep coming.

It looks like they will, since the government pledged to invest £100bn in infrastructure by 2021 (as detailed in the 2015 Spending Review).

Every foundation stone, every groundworks development, needs a skilled workforce to get the job done. Apprentices learn on the job, chip in for cheap and grow into the highly skilled workforce of tomorrow. They are essential to the industry’s life-cycle. Without them the industry would slowly grind to a halt as our existing workforce ages. It’ll never happen of course but if more apprentices don’t come construction activity will certainly slow.