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Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Closing the skills gap: Part 2 - Apprenticeships

This week is National Apprenticeship week and with that in mind, I thought I would do a part two of closing the skills gap.

The government is imposing an apprenticeship levy from April 2017 something that is likely to have an impact on how employers view the viability of apprenticeships. However, should this affect how many apprenticeships are available going forward and will this be off putting to employers previously offering or considering the idea of offering apprenticeships?

In short, ideally not. From April 2017, employers whose payroll exceeds £3m, will pay a levy of 0.5% of their payroll on anything over the £3m. So what is the reality? In the main, for those with a payroll under £3m nothing will change but for companies that exceed this figure, the reality is they may reduce the number of apprenticeships they offer. Seen as a "payroll tax" arguments against the levy are mainly to do with the fact that this will increase business costs. However, it can be seen as a positive as discussed by the Association of Colleges that it will help to reverse a 20 year decline in employer spending on training, will be more effective than voluntary initiatives in that period and will, as a result, secure benefits for individuals and employers. The levy is part of a larger set of reforms designed to narrow the 20% productivity gap between the UK and other advanced countries

Its an interesting idea and as I have mentioned before, the ever growing skills gap means training is needed more than ever before in the Construction industry. Perhaps being "forced" is the best way to really address a problem that most within construction are concerned about but few are making any real progress with. It needs to be a two pronged attack though. Whether there are a lot of apprenticeships available doesn't matter if people do not know that they are available. Promotion of careers and higher education options within schools is key. Schools and employers need to work together to inspire and engage with students to educate them on the opportunities available to them and the careers in construction that are available. Where construction is concerned this engagement needs to be equal for both male and female students as research shows that this is not currently the case.

Apprenticeships are a fantastic way to learn a new skill, begin a career and earn whilst doing so. Organisations such as K10 not only help people get apprenticeships but social responsibility is high on their agenda. Of apprentices on site 15% are women, 12% are ex-offenders, 73% are 18-24 years old, 10% have a disability and 84% were previously unemployed. With a combination of up-skilling people and filling the skills gap, by encouraging more people to take up an apprenticeship we will be able to take steps to fill the 182,000 construction jobs currently available.

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