Recent studies by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) have suggested that a third of small construction firms are actually being put off from offering apprenticeships due to the bureaucracy involved. The report, entitled “Defusing the skills time bomb”, explains further.

Chief Executive of the FMB, Brian Berry commented “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% of small construction firms want to train apprentices but a third are being turned off by a number of serious “fear factors”. These include the cost of employing and training an apprentice and major concerns regarding the complexity of the process.”

“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% of non-recruiters are not aware of one of the most important apprenticeship grants available to them and just over 75% say knowledge of financial support would make them more likely to take on apprentices.”

“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.”

The FMB isn’t the only body voicing concerns over announcements made in the Autumn Statement. The British Chamber of Commerce have also called for greater clarity on the apprenticeship levy.

Executive Director of Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), Dr Adam Marshall said “Businesses want to tackle skills shortages and drive up productivity, but the apprenticeship levy risks having the reverse effect.”

“A lack of clarity around the scope, rate and scale is having a huge impact on business confidence. Many firms have decided to put training and investment on hold, and are concerned about the knock on effects of the levy on their cash flow, existing training schemes, and the bottom line. It’s important that this levy doesn’t undermine other types of vocational training, which could be better suited to some businesses.”

“While businesses back the government’s drive to boost apprenticeships, they have real concerns about the current approach. The government must focus on improving the quality of apprenticeships to make them more attractive to employers, and provide clarity on how they will be paid for as soon as possible.”

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