A third of small construction firms are being put off from taking on apprentices because of the bureaucracy involved, according to a new research report.
The Defusing the skills time bomb published by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), states that the cost of employing and training apprentice and the “complexity of this is a major concern among employers.
Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “The construction industry is in the midst of a skills crisis, which can only be solved if more employers take on apprentices. The Government wants to deliver three million apprentices over the next five years and this new report sheds some light on how this can be achieved. Our research shows that 94 per cent of small construction firms want to train apprentices, but a third are being turned off by a number of serious “fear factors”.
“There is strong evidence to show that small construction firms need better information and that if they were more aware of the support that’s available, a great number would train apprentices. Just under 80 per cent of non-recruiters are not aware of one of the most important apprenticeship grants available to them and just over 75 per cent say knowledge of financial support would make them more likely to take on apprentices.”
The Chancellor confirmed last week in his Autumn Statement that the Levy will come into effect in April 2017. Large employers in the UK will have to pay an “apprenticeship levy” amounting to 0.5 per cent of their total wage bill to encourage large companies to offer quality training to young people. However, smaller companies who make less then £3m will not have to pay.
He said: “With those paying it able to get out more than they put in. It’s a huge reform to raise the skills of the nation and address one of the enduring weaknesses of the British economy. We will be spending twice as much on apprenticeships by 2020 compared to when we came to office.”
While the Chancellor commits to building new capital, does the UK have the skills to deliver it?
The FMB report makes several government recommendations, such as Ensuring the proposed Apprenticeship Levy is integrated effectively with the existing construction industry levy. In addition that the new digital apprenticeship vouchers, which are being introduced from 2017, are simple and easy to use. Another is to for employers to provide evidence of training has been undertaken by the end of the contract.
Berry concluded: “Given that two-thirds of all construction apprentices are trained by SMEs, it is critical that the Government does everything in its power to remove any barriers that might be stopping these companies from training.
“Looking ahead, the Government’s new apprenticeship voucher could be a disaster for small firms unless it is properly road tested and made as simple and easy-to-use as possible. We’re also calling on the Government to protect our industry training board which is at risk from the new Apprenticeship Levy. The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) needs reform admittedly but without it the very smallest firms would be left with less financial and practical support for apprenticeship training – remove this lifeline and you risk worsening the skills crisis.”