Phil Smith, Associate Director at Rund discusses how employers can help answer a growing demand for skilled workers through a well-structured apprenticeship programme.
“In 2017, the government announced its target to build 300,000 new homes a year and it still stands by this target to this day. Recently, it stated how this target will remain ‘undiminished’ as MPs raised concerns over resulting ‘over-development’ in certain areas. While this remains a potential issue, another which still needs addressing is how our industry can find, train, and retain the volume of workers needed to deliver this ambitious target.
Demand outweighing supply for apprenticeship opportunities
“The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) reported this year that the shortfall in the number of skilled construction workers in the UK is at its highest point since 2007. In its latest RICS UK Construction and Infrastructure Monitor for Q3 2020, comments from the Chartered Surveyor market attributed the skills gap to the impact of COVID-19 and economic uncertainty, as well as a poor availability of apprentices in the industry.
“So, how can we boost apprentice numbers? The government recently announced in its Spending Review that plans were in motion to improve the current system. From August 2021, employers who pay the apprenticeship levy will be able to transfer unspent levy funds in bulk to SMEs with a new pledge function. The government also said from April 2021, employers in construction will be allowed to front-load training for certain apprenticeship standards.
How employers can improve apprenticeship opportunities
“While the government is implementing more measures to improve the apprenticeship system, we as employers also have a significant part to play. To enhance the quality of apprenticeship programmes, we need to embed new administrative and mentor support systems to manage and progress apprentices. At Rund, we assign every new apprentice with a mentor when they first join the company. This allows us to closely support them, as well as give them one-to-one guidance on professional development and advancement.
“We ensure our apprentices gain a true experience of the industry and how we work by allowing them a hands-on experience from day one. Often, our apprentices will be on site for most of their first week, shadowing colleagues and learning first-hand what the role entails. In addition, we believe apprenticeships should not be restricted to young people. Anyone should be able to undertake an apprenticeship, whether they are seeking to develop their skills, changing industries, or joining the industry at a later stage.
Rund case study example: Yolanda Buxey
“One of our Surveyors, Yolanda Buxey, joined Rund as an apprentice seven years ago, beginning as an administrator. After displaying a high-quality level of work in her role, Yolanda was given the role of managing the defects and aftercare process at Rund. The role allowed her to improve her knowledge and experience of surveying and defects, leading to her promotion to Surveyor in March 2020.”
Yolanda added: “I first started a career in the hospitality industry, so my apprenticeship at Rund allowed me to discover new interests I never previously considered. I have developed multiple new skills and now have the confidence to lead projects, with my colleagues always available to guide me and help me progress my career.”
Developing a committed workforce through apprenticeship opportunities
Phil Smith continued: “A high-quality apprenticeship programme benefits employers in the long-term, helping them identify talent and grow a committed workforce. Together with government support, our industry can help boost the skills needed in construction projects to not only meet housing demand but capitalise on the huge range of talent out there, waiting to be discovered.”