More support needed to help new construction apprentices

London’s housing associations and employers have been urged to join a scheme that will train up to 500 new construction apprentices over the next decade.

Constructors, consultants and housing associations from across the capital have been brought together to form Evolve, London’s first not-for-profit Shared Apprenticeship Scheme with industry training board CITB. It follows research by the Skills Funding Agency which shows a 40 per cent drop in Londoners taking part in construction apprenticeships between 2008 and 2013.

Evolve removes the burden of traditional apprenticeship programmes on individual employers by spreading the cost and training obligations across several organisations. It works by recruiting new apprentices and matching them with different employers over the course of their training. Mark Rogers, Chief Executive of Circle Housing, a partner in Evolve, said:

“The cost and commitment involved in running long term programmes has led to a sharp decline in the number of London’s construction employers offering apprenticeships. This will create a skills gap and endanger vital work to deliver much needed new homes across the city.

“With the help of employers and housing associations, Evolve can support hundreds more young Londoners to gain the right skills and qualifications so they can drive the construction industry forward. We are urging all housing associations to join us in what we believe is the future for apprenticeship training and homebuilding in the capital.”

In a survey of construction professionals, eight out of 10 (82%) said the industry was suffering a skills shortage and more than a third (38%) said a lack of well-trained apprentices was its biggest threat.

More than half (51%) admitted their organisation was no longer recruiting apprentices. More than a quarter (28%) said they were recruiting less or no longer offering apprenticeship programmes.

Kaya Gavan, 21, has been training with Evolve for more than six months. He said:

“My aim was always to get into construction but I didn’t really think construction apprenticeships existed anymore. When I asked people in the industry, they told me apprenticeships were really difficult to get onto and a lot of people weren’t kept on once the job was finished. That’s one of the best things about this scheme. When I’m finished at my current placement, I’ll carry on my training at another site in London.”

“Many of my friends got into trouble a lot when I was younger but after my young son was born, it really focused my energy on making something of myself. I still know a lot of people who are out of work, so I feel really fortunate to be given this training and the opportunity to find a proper job. If the right opportunities occur I might be able to do a building management course, something that I’d never have thought was in my reach before.”

The average cost to an individual employer for a three year construction apprenticeship programme is estimated to be £22,000 – compared to just £2,300 for a scheme within retail. Under Evolve, they will only pay a weekly rate when the apprentice completes a placement at their organisation.

Steve Hearty, Head of Employer Services at CITB said:

“Evolve is a fantastic programme that will help us tackle some of the major challenges the construction industry currently faces. It is ensuring we have a flexible, working solution to address current skills needs – ensuring they are in the right places, at the right time.

“For both employers and apprentices it provides a simple and effective solution that does not substitute traditional recruitment but instead drives additional skills development to meet the needs of employers and industry. Over the next 10 years, it will put the industry in a far better position to develop and grow the skills base that’s needed in London.”

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