53 RCI 0614

RCI June 2014

APPRENTICESHIP SCHEMES “Commit to apprenticeships for the future of construction” The economy is recovering, but the critical issue of the skills shortage is a key challenge for future and sustained growth in the construction industry. Dave Hall, manager of the Saint-Gobain Technical Academies, stresses the importance of commitment to apprenticeship schemes in order to bring new talent into the construction industry. That way, companies can seek high-calibre staff to meet the labour demands of new projects Dave Hall, Saint-Gobain Technical Academies: “This is not a new problem; for a number of years there has been a pattern of school leavers favouring academic over vocational routes, encouraged by their schools” RCIMAG.COM JUNE 2014 053 If we think back to how many of us entered this sector, we may probably say we entered the trade by accident. Well that’s not enough anymore – times have changed and we must change with it. Stakeholders need to support the younger generation so they understand the construction industry and the routes to career opportunities which are available to them. A Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) survey has suggested that firms are struggling to fill more than 62,000 jobs with a shortage of young talent entering the employment market, proving that the skills shortage is a key challenge for future and sustained growth. With another CITB report suggesting that over 182,000 additional UK construction jobs will be created between 2014 and 2018, the challenge of finding enough skilled construction workers to meet demand is likely to worsen over time, as an estimated 410,000 construction workers will reach retirement in the next five years. This is not a new problem: for a number of years there has been a pattern of school leavers favouring academic over vocational routes, encouraged by their schools. However, the problems have been intensified by the recent industry downturn, which caused many young people to believe the construction industry has a lack of career opportunity. This could not be further from the truth. Apprenticeship schemes are a great way for individuals to get to know the construction industry and find out what opportunities are out there for them. Candidates who don’t have a career path in mind can use an apprenticeship or taster courses to try out different tasks, to develop their own interests and see if they can picture themselves holding a career within construction. Apprenticeships benefit everyone involved, from the apprentices and the employers, to the training providers involved in raising industry skill levels. They are an opportunity to enter the industry without the worry of financing the qualification; however, apprenticeships deliver much more than that, providing transferrable qualifications alongside highly structured on-the-job learning and mentoring from industry professionals. For employers, apprenticeship schemes bring new skills to the business: they deliver well-rounded new staff within a short period, due to the schemes’ broad coverage of technical knowledge, work-based competences, soft skills, and general numeracy and literacy. While apprenticeships cannot replace higher and more specialised technical qualifications, they complement them, laying a strong foundation for later learning and a defined study path. These combined methods of training will play a big part in supporting a prosperous construction sector. For apprenticeship schemes to work, support is needed from employers and training providers, as well as from government. Given the significant value they add to individual employers and the industry’s wider skills base, this is an investment we cannot afford to bypass. At Saint-Gobain we are investing in training through our Technical Academies, which have been designed to help combat the industry’s skills shortage and provide training on new technologies and systems. Experts from a number of Saint-Gobain manufacturing businesses, including British Gypsum, Isover and Weber, provide training at the Technical Academies across the UK and Ireland. The courses offered are targeted at a range of experienced industry professionals, including contractors, builders’ merchants and architects, who are looking to upskill, as well as new recruits to the industry. To survive, the industry needs an influx of diverse new talent, representing different age groups, genders, and backgrounds. Therefore, it is crucial that Government policy makers and influencers across the industry not only champion greater uptake of apprenticeships by school leavers, but also continue to support and promote apprenticeship schemes for adult learners. www.saint-gobain.co.uk “While apprenticeships cannot replace higher and more specialised technical qualifications, they complement them, laying a strong foundation for later learning and a defined study path. These combined methods of training will play a big part in supporting a prosperous construction sector”


RCI June 2014
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