Last edited 15 Aug 2016

Construction apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are a form of training designed with employers that combine practical work in a job and studying.

The can be useful for employers developing new employees skills, education and experience. Employers may work in partnership with a training provider to deliver an apprenticeship programme.

Apprenticeships can help apprentices develop experience, gain job-specific skills and obtain a formal qualification whilst at the same time earning a wage. There are many different forms of apprenticeship, but typically, they will take 1 to 4 years and will involve studying one day a week.

Apprenticeships might include:

  • On-the-job coaching and learning.
  • Off-the-job learning.
  • Employer induction and training.
  • Online learning and support.
  • Workbooks.
  • Projects.
  • Mentoring and line management support.
  • Specific training for individuals.

The government defines the levels of apprenticeship as:

  • Intermediate - equivalent to 5 GCSE passes.
  • Advanced - equivalent to 2 A level passes.
  • Higher - can lead to NVQ Level 4 and above, or a foundation degree.

Ref Become an apprentice.

In the construction industry, apprenticeships are a vital part of developing a skilled workforce. Apprenticeships are available in areas such as; building, civil engineering, construction management, electrical servicing, surveying, heating and plumbing, and so on as well as specialist apprenticeships such as scaffolding, plastering, roofing, kitchen and bathroom fitting and so on.

Organisations such as the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) provide a range of apprenticeship schemes, including:

  • Traditional apprenticeship, combining studying at college with experience on-site over a two to four year period resulting in an NVQ or SVQ qualification.
  • Higher apprenticeships, providing broad-based training and a structured career path for a range of technical, supervision and management roles.
  • Specialist apprenticeships, serving sectors and employers that can’t access specialist apprenticeships through local colleges or training providers.
  • Shared apprenticeships, giving apprentices a variety of experience by working for more than one employer.

According to government statistics, 2.2 million apprenticeships were created between 2010, and 2015. 7 out of 10 employers find apprenticeships useful to their business and apprenticeships are proven to increase the earnings of those who undertake them.

However, construction apprenticeship numbers fell following the credit crunch, and the industry increasingly complains that it has an ageing workforce.

In 2015, Federation of Master Builders (FMB) chief executive Brian Berry said “The government’s target of three million additional apprenticeships over the coming five years is suitably ambitious but reforms are required to ensure that these are actually delivered. As construction accounts for around 7% of GDP, it means our sector should be responsible for around 210,000 of these apprenticeships, which equates to 42,000 a year over the next parliament. Given that the industry only achieved 16,000 in 2013/2014, there is a lot of work to be done.”

In June 2015, the Independent reported that detailed analysis of government figures revealed in a parliamentary answer to Diana Johnson, the Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull North, showed there had been a sharp drop in the number of construction apprenticeships. In 2009-10 there were 16,890 apprentices in construction, planning and built environment, but just four years later there were just 8,000. Ref Thousands of apprenticeships lost in key industries including construction and IT.

In October 2013 the government announced reforms to apprenticeships to make them more rigorous and responsive to the needs of employers.

On 14 June 2015, Skills Minister Nick Boles MP, announced that provisions will be made for apprenticeships to be given equal legal treatment as degrees, with the term ‘apprenticeship’ protected in law, giving government the power to take action when the term is misused to promote low quality courses. Ref BIS Government kick-starts plans to reach 3 million apprenticeships.

In August 2015, the government launched a consultation process for a new apprenticeships levy that will apply to the construction industry. This may threaten the continued role of the CITB. See Apprenticeships levy for more information.

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