11th April 2019
Apprenticeships – Time for a New Perspective?

Research undertaken by the Federation of Master Builders during National Apprenticeship Week in March made for interesting reading. It shows that more of us would rather our children did an apprenticeship than a degree.

Apprenticeships have all too often been viewed as the poor relation to a university education. However, with tuition fees rising and many graduates finding themselves in jobs that don’t make full use of what they’ve learned, apprenticeships are becoming more widely regarded as route to a fulfilling career which offers the opportunity to learn and earn at the same time.

When apprenticeships are constructed and delivered well, they can provide great benefits to employees and employers and help the economy by upskilling the workforce.

Increased grants available from April

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) forecasts that the industry will need as many as 168,500 new recruits to fill the number of vacancies that are likely to arise over the next five years, given that there may in future be limits imposed on migrant workers.

In a major boost to industry training, the CITB has announced increases in funding that means that employers can receive up to £14,500 for each apprentice they take on who successfully completes their apprenticeship and joins the workforce – an uplift of over 30% on existing rates. It is hoped that this will act as an added incentive to businesses, particularly SMEs, to take on even more apprentices.

Construction is leading the way

Currently, 73% of construction sector SMEs employ apprentices, a figure that’s significantly higher than that for SMEs employing apprenticeships across all sectors, which stands at 65%. With an estimated one million SMEs operating in the construction sector, if the remaining 27% were to take on just one apprentice each, it would create 270,000 apprenticeship opportunities.

One of the challenges the industry is facing is attracting more women. Currently, just 3% of construction apprentices are female. Clearly, there is more work to be done to overcome outdated stereotypes and encourage women to consider construction as a good and fulfilling career path.

Age is not, it seems, a barrier to becoming upskilled. Recent reports suggest that older workers are also embarking on this type of training. Barking & Dagenham College report that a new breed of mature apprentice is starting their courses. Of the 143 apprentices in training, nearly a quarter are over 25, with some aged in their 50s and 60s.

What’s in a name?

When apprenticeships were first introduced in England in the Middle Ages, apprentices trained to become a Journeyman under the supervision of a Master Craftsman. Interestingly, today many European countries have successfully incorporated multiple skill levels in the composition of their apprenticeship structure, in an effort to distinguish the most accomplished apprentices from those who have completed entry-level training.

Now, the Social Market Foundation is advocating bringing back the term “master craftsman” to boost the status of apprenticeships in the UK. According to a report by the think-tank, using different titles for the varying rungs on the apprenticeship ladder would help to boost the prestige of the higher-level qualifications and encourage more new entrants to join the sector.