The challenge for joinery apprenticeships

joinery apprenticeships

The challenge for joinery apprenticeships

With the UK continuing to face a chronic shortage of skilled craftsmen and tradespeople, leading commercial joinery and fit-out specialist, Hannaford, looks at the changing landscape for apprenticeships, the traditional entry point for new recruits into skilled industries.

The Apprenticeship scheme is currently in a period of significant change, relating to both structure and financing. Over the past decade, training providers have been responsible for managing 80% of all Apprenticeships in England with large employers and further education colleges making up the other 20% but all that’s about to change as new regulations come into force this year.

From April, a new Apprenticeship Levy will be paid at a rate of 0.5% by employers with a payroll of more than £3million per year, estimated at between 19-20,000 businesses. The Government expects to raise over £3 billion a year by 2019-20, £2.5 billion of which will be ring-fenced to be spent on English apprenticeships only. The funds collected will be accessible to employers who want to purchase apprenticeship training, regardless of whether they paid the levy or not.

Starting from May 2017, the Government will launch a new system of fifteen funding bands to which all apprenticeship framework standards will be assigned. Employers will then be responsible for negotiating with training providers a price for training and assessment within a funding band. A new voucher scheme will also kick in this month, enabling employers to purchase training directly from their chosen supplier. This process transfers the administrative burden previously managed by colleges and training providers into the hands of employers.

This has potentially serious consequences for the construction and associated trade sectors as many of the existing programmes are subject to cuts of up to 50% in Government funding. Not only that but many businesses do not have the staff resource or expertise to undertake the necessary ‘red tape’ to access funded training. Many commentators and analysts believe this ‘double whammy’ could lead to a trainee drought, worsening an already critical skills shortage.

Based in St Albans, commercial joinery and fit-out business, Hannaford, has been an advocate of joinery apprenticeships for many decades. Our business aims to take on at least one apprentice per year, in partnership with the Building Crafts College in London.

Richard Williams, Hannaford’s Finance Director, says that enthusiasm for apprenticeships seems to have diminished amongst those aged under 19, as schools encourage students to aim for higher education:

“In our experience, young people aged 16-18 don’t attach prestige to a career in the construction and woodworking industry, despite the fact that they would be earning a respectable wage from day one, whilst learning at the same time. Many still view it as a sector with limited prospects, not realising the potential for those who are skilled. We have more success with individuals joining us who are classed as ‘adult apprentices’, those over the age of 25.”

According to the British Woodworking Federation (BWF), more than 4000 new entrants will be needed in the wood trades every year for the next four years, just to stand still. That’s a rise from 244,700 in 2014 to more than 260,800 in 2018.

The UK wood products manufacturing sector is a vital part of the construction industry, adding £3.8billion to the UK economy every year. Of the 2.9 million people working in construction, 7% are carpenters and joiners, which is the third largest sector of employment in construction.

The woodworking and joinery sector also maintains the highest ratio of apprentices in the construction industry, with the latest figures from the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) showing that joinery apprenticeships account for 32% of all construction apprenticeships.

Through the implementation of the Apprenticeship Levy, the Government has made it clear that it intends to co-fund apprenticeships but it has sounded the death knell for fully funded training provision. Employers, therefore, are expected to increase their contribution but the fear is that many SMEs may simply choose to withdraw from training altogether. This would be a travesty as the benefits of apprenticeships to the economy far outweigh the cost to the Treasury.

Hannaford strongly believes that apprentices are not failed school leavers or the poor cousin of graduates. They are the entrepreneurial, motivated business leaders of the future. There is a powerful connection between high-quality vocational training and employability. Joinery apprenticeships and others provide that via a blend of structured technical, practical and vocational learning. Only when we achieve the parity of esteem between academia and apprenticeships will we be consistently able to attract the brightest talent into our sector.

For further information about joinery Apprenticeships, visit https://www.getingofar.gov.uk/apprenticeships

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