UK Launches Commission to Investigate Construction Apprenticeships Shortfall as Skills Gap Looms

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A commission is being launched to investigate the quality of construction apprenticeships and the number of people taking up the training programmes as...

A commission is being launched to investigate the quality of construction apprenticeships and the number of people taking up the training programmes as the sector looks to fill a looming skills gap.

Think-tank Demos has launched the cross-party project, ‘The Commission on Apprenticeships’ to investigate vocational training across all sectors, but with a focus on construction. It will be co-chaired by Conservative MP Robert Halfon and Labour peer Lord Glasman, bringing together policy experts, training providers and business leaders.

The commission follows the Construction Industry Training Board’s report, Educating the Educators, published February 2014, which surveyed 800 career influencers such as teachers and guidance counsellors across the UK on their views of the construction industry.

The report found 60 percent of careers advisers in schools fail to offer any information on available construction jobs, and 35 percent do not rate the sector as a positive career move.

The report also found that the construction industry needs 120,000 apprentices over the next five years to fill the emerging skills gap as it creates 180,000 jobs in same time period. The number of people completing construction apprenticeships has fallen by close to 75 percent since the financial crisis, with just 3,760 apprentices completing training in 2012-13, down from 14,250 for 2008-09.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Glasman said: “Apprenticeships have a proud tradition in Britain that needs renewing. At their best, apprenticeships help people learn from others, build a sense of vocation and deliver work of real quality. Construction is a key sector for Britain, so it is vital senior politicians support it and the future of people working in it.”

Halfon added: “The best way to improve living standards is to help people earn more. High quality apprenticeships do just that: better skills lead to better wages. ”

The commission will focus on increasing the attractiveness of apprenticeships to trainees and companies, ensuring Britain’s vocational training is world-class, and investigating how apprenticeships can offer taxpayers the best value for money and minimise red tape.

The think-tank says the construction industry accounts for 2.1 million jobs in the UK, or seven percent of the overall workforce.

Backing the commission, UK Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “Recovery of the British economy can only be secured if we have the necessary skills. Construction, in particular, already faces shortages and this could become acute as the recovery strengthens. That is why apprenticeships are crucial. I welcome the commission and hope it can support this work and provide the construction industry with a new vision for apprenticeship training.”

For more information on construction apprenticeships in the UK, click here.

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