It’s well documented now that there’s a skills shortage within the construction industry in the UK, with the issue prevailing over the last few years. The apprentice scheme was introduced as a possible solution to funnel some home-grown talent into the construction sector, but has the construction sector taken full advantage of the apprenticeship scheme to deal with the clear skills shortage? Nifty Lift, supplier of work platforms, investigates:

The gender divide in apprenticeships

There have been concerns over the disproportionate number of males being offered apprenticeship roles in better-paid industries compared to female candidates, even though the government continues to create apprenticeships.

A lack of encouragement

More women need to be encouraged to look into what are classically-male associated roles such as construction work. It appears that schools could be doing more to encourage more apprentices in general.

Beyond encouragement, there is certainly scope to restructure the outdated view of construction being a ‘male job’, in addition to apprenticeships as a whole being supported with useful information and guides at a school-level. Taking an apprenticeship should not be treated as the lesser of two options, and instead, be held as valuable and as viable an option as university.

Levy problems

The UK government announced a plan to create 3 million apprenticeship places by 2020, with a levy introduced to fund this. As per the levy requirements, businesses in England who have an annual pay bill over 3 million have to pay 0.5 per cent for the levy. Businesses who do not pay the levy receive 100 per cent of training costs covered for apprenticeships offered to 16 to 18-year olds. For those aged over 19, 90 per cent of the costs are covered. Plus, for businesses with less than 50 employees who don’t pay the levy, there’s a 1,000 incentive scheme for taking on a 16 to 18-year old apprentice.

However, according to Contractor UK, the levy hasn’t quite made for the intended success story. As per the clams of one report, although levy-paying businesses had put 1.39 billion into the levy in total, only 108million had been channelled through to the apprenticeship scheme. Additionally, the number of new apprentices in the first quarter of the levy’s introduction was actually lower overall. On top of this, more than 80 per cent of levy-paying firms had not taken on an apprentice.

The levy might appeal to smaller businesses, but the overall process needs to be reviewed and made more flexible in order to boost the number of apprentices getting places at the larger, levy-paying firms.

However, the skills-gap is closing

Making for some positive news in the world of apprenticeships, the problematic skill gap that has plagued the construction industry is, slowly, closing.

Up-skilling and training are now taking a priority, so apprentices are finding that there are more resources and apprenticeship training providers available to them once they find a placement. The levy may not be producing the rapid results companies were hoping for, but it does seem to be aiding in closing the skills gap – potentially, a review and amended levy could push this further.

While there has been progress with regards to apprenticeships in the construction sector, the issue is still very much an ongoing one.