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Construction apprentices help firms survive the economic downturn

Construction firms are being urged to take on and train apprentices to help survive the economic downturn. ConstructionSkills, the Sector Skills Council for the construction industry, is advising employers across the country to continue to take on apprentices in order to remain competitive and be in the strongest possible position when the upturn begins.

Even though apprentice applications are down this year on recent years, thousands more employers in England are still needed to match the demand for apprenticeship places, with 6,845 applications received so far and only 1,880 employer vacancies offered. But 740 employers and apprentices have been matched to date, which is the same number as this time in 2008.

A total of 5,800 young people in England started an apprenticeship last year with ConstructionSkills.

With more and more construction firms bidding for public sector work – which is forecast to remain stable over the next few years relative to other sectors – those who employ apprentices could have a major advantage. The Office of Government Commerce’s (OGC) new guidelines for public sector procurement, published in April 2009, state that contractors who can demonstrate a commitment to skills and training may be the preferred choice to take on work as part of the Government’s £7 billion annual spend. Major contactors in turn will be looking to their supply chain partners to help meet these requirements.

ConstructionSkills wants companies of all sizes to recognise the business benefits of apprentices and to commit to helping young people enter the industry to avoid losing valuable skills and talent to other sectors.

As well as putting firms in good position to win public sector contracts, apprentices and other trainees can have immediate and low-cost benefits for firms. Apprentices taken on now will be trained in time for the predicted upturn in demand for construction services by 2011.

The most recent published forecasts, from the Construction Skills Network (CSN), reveal two distinct phases for the industry: one of recession (through 2009 and into 2011) and one of gradual recovery (from 2011 to 2013).

Director of ConstructionSkills Apprenticeships, Max Hamps, said:

“Taking on an apprentice may feel like the last thing on your mind at the moment. However, when times are tough, competition for contracts is even tougher. That’s when a well-trained, extra pair of hands could make a real difference to your chances.

“By offering a flexible resource that can help your business grow, an apprentice could be the best investment your business ever makes. It is vital that during these tough economic times valuable skills are not lost. We will continue to work closely with the house builders in particular who so far have been the most affected by the downturn.”

Andrew Denby at Tamdown, a construction firm offering services for both private and public clients, said:

“We’re committed to apprenticeships as these are essential to the future of the industry as a whole as well as being a key element of the future of this business. We work hard to make sure that all of our apprentices are happy with their own development, which in turn inspires their confidence.

“Given the current economic climate we are confident that investment such as this will lead to their retention within Tamdown upon completion of their college courses, thus avoiding the need to spend money on expensive recruitment drives.”

ConstructionSkills financially supports employers that take on apprentices with up to £9,820 in CITB-ConstructionSkills Grant. In addition, a network of trained advisors provides ongoing mentoring and support.

For more information, please visit www.cskills.org/apprenticeships or contact your local ConstructionSkills office.

Email: David.Pidgeon@cskills.org


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