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Guiding local authorities towards improved Apprenticeship delivery across construction projects

Source: Public Sector Executive July/Aug 2013

David Way, executive director of the National Apprenticeship Service, explains why it is important to support local government and construction firms working together to improve Apprenticeship recruitment and training.

Apprenticeships are now more popular than ever and construction Apprenticeships are the first choice for many young people. 

While many local authority and public procurement contracts have successfully made provision for Apprenticeships, there have been difficulties too. In the construction sector in particular, some apprentices are not able to complete their training before a project finishes or are being recruited before it is clear what skills are actually required locally. 

To help ensure these experiences are avoided, we have worked with a range of partners to produce new guidance, ‘Working together to boost local construction Apprenticeships through public procurement’. This will help local authorities and construction firms to work better together to recruit, manage and maximise the number of apprentices. This will bring wider benefits to their local economy and help bridge the local skills gaps. 

The guidance, launched at the recent Government’s Construction Summit, was developed by the National Apprenticeship Service, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Local Government Association, CITB, UKCG, and with support from the wider construction sector. Its primary aim is to encourage local authorities to enter into a dialogue with contractors earlier, to determine what will actually work in practice and to deliver high quality Apprenticeships, even when there may not be sufficient time to complete training in one project. 

Practically, this means a more thorough assessing of skills gaps; co-operating more with neighbouring local authorities; thinking more about the length and requirements of specific projects; learning about a contractor’s existing record in developing skills and their current number of apprentices, and widening requirements to enable Apprenticeship training to be delivered across a number of different projects 

The National Apprenticeship Service works across all sectors to meet employers’ needs and ensure high quality on-the-job training for young people. Current priorities for the construction sector are to improve productivity by attracting, retaining and developing talent, as well as improving supervisory, management and leadership skills and the diversity of the workforce. Apprenticeships are key to achieving these priorities and the new guidance is designed to support this by encouraging local authority managers to: 

• Open a dialogue and talk to successful bidders earlier about what requirements are workable before procurement requirements are set in stone; 

• Use public procurement policy to promote Apprenticeships in the construction sector, while working with contractors to get the requirements right both for the local area and for apprentices; 

• Take contractors’ advice about the local skills gaps to ensure requirements meet local needs; 

• Take account of contractors’ current policy on Apprenticeships as this may have bearing on what is viable for them; 

• Allow contractors to include apprentices part way through their training as part of the ‘requirement’ rather than insisting on them all being new entrants; 

• Take account of the length of the project (and the length of time that each trade will be needed during that project) when developing requirements;

• Work with neighbouring local authorities so that the opportunities for construction apprentices are not artificially limited; and 

• Allow apprentices to move onto different projects part way through their training as contracts are awarded, working with CITB Shared Apprenticeship Schemes and Apprenticeship Training Agencies (ATAs). 

The construction sector in England has over 1.8 million employees made up of professional and technical staff, managers and surveyors. By 2015, forecasts suggest a further 38,630 new recruits will be needed to fill the posts of those that retire or leave the industry. 

Covering a broad range of job roles, from tunnelling to theatre stage carpenter, it is an industry that not only supports traditional skills but continues to develop, adopt and implement new technologies and skills which are incorporated in both restoration and new projects.

Apprentices are vital to ensuring this skills demand is met for traditional and future developments. 

Implementing guidance, such as this, is now key to ensuring that we drive up the number of high quality Apprenticeships in the construction sector and support businesses to grow their own talent and develop a motivated, skilled and qualified workforce.

The guidance is also available on the National Apprenticeship Service website.


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