Last week’s Budget represented a great opportunity to address employers’ concerns about the Apprenticeship Levy but passed with no concrete promises from Chancellor Philip Hammond who said he would “keep under review the flexibility that levy payers have to spend the money”. This isn’t particularly good news as it sends a negative message about apprenticeships whey companies in the UK are trying to promote them in order to solve the skills shortage. Some companies are actually telling potential apprentices that they can’t take them on because they’re not getting levy support in time! The Department of Education has confessed that the number of apprenticeships is lower than expected, and is probably a result of bringing in the Levy which is expected to raise about £3 billion annually.
HR and operational professionals in the construction and utilities sector have admitted that they haven’t yet got to grips with the Apprenticeship Levy and many still don’t properly understand it, it was discovered at a recent Industry Skills Forum. Companies have two years from their initial levy payments (which started in April, 2017) to draw down funds but the way the system is structured means that delays may result in them not being able to recoup everything they pay into the levy.
Companies are being discouraged from rushing into adopting apprenticeships which may cost more to operate than would be paid for by the Levy. There are also concerns that recruitment standards may be compromised in the rush to hire new apprentices. Companies are being urged instead to identify their business needs in terms of both recruitment and the training of the existing workforce and set up apprenticeships that meet those needs.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom for the construction industry as the CITB (Construction Industry Training Board) published a report recently disclosing that more young people are viewing construction as an attractive career option. A recent survey of more than a thousand young people, five hundred parents and eight hundred careers guidance professionals revealed that there has been a marked change in perceptions of the construction industry among all groups. In fact, a massive one in four youngsters gave the sector top marks as a career choice, a figure that’s doubled since last year (13%) and is a huge increase on 2015 when just 3% of youngsters viewed a career in construction as a viable option.
This trend appears to be have come about as a result of several factors. Firstly, there’s been an increase in construction jobs recently but it’s also a result of some fundamental changes within the industry. Joint industry-led initiatives like Go Construct, Inspiring Construction and Open Doors, combined with the efforts of Construction Ambassadors have helped to put the industry into the spotlight. However, the most important factor attracting youngsters into the industry is the fact that the sector itself is changing and modernising. The adoption and development of digital technology, the increase in offsite construction methods and training through immersive learning are all combining to turn the industry round and make a career in construction an attractive choice.