CIC Champion on Higher Education and Deputy Convenor for the Higher Education Group of the Construction and Built Environment Education Advisory Committee (CBEE)
The UK construction and built environment industry faces a huge challenge in securing enough skilled labour to deliver the predicted volume of projects over the next few years. The Construction Industry Training Board estimates that the industry needs 168,500 new people to come into the workforce by 2022 (Construction Skills Network report, February 2019).
Supply of labour from the EU may become constrained post-Brexit due to changing immigration regulations, exacerbating the problem and increasing the need to recruit and train workers from within the UK. Apprenticeships represent a huge opportunity for the industry to address the growing skills shortage identified by employers and professional bodies.
Since the 2012 Richard Review of Apprenticeships it has been a central part of the UK Government’s skills policy to increase the volume and quality of Apprenticeships. This has involved setting a target of 5 million starts between 2015 and 2020 and introducing employer-led standards to replace the existing frameworks. A further policy driver is the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in May 2017.
Employers are putting more resources than ever into apprenticeships following the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy with approx. £2 billion/year being allocated to apprenticeship provision. Feedback from UK employers indicates that the Apprenticeship system is not yet delivering the benefits that employers are looking for, with an estimated 86% Levy funds unspent after 18 months.
Issues identified to date include:
- Slow and confusing processes to approve new standards, leading to long delays in some cases, especially at higher and degree level where standards that are urgently required to meet skills gaps (such as Construction Site Manager, Building Control Surveyor and Construction Surveying Technician are still not available for employers to use)
- Lack of consistency and transparency in allocating funding bands to standards, rendering some standards undeliverable without employers providing additional top-up funding
- Lack of flexibility in design of End Point Assessment, leading to well-established processes for assessing professional competence being rejected
- Bureaucracy associated with meeting compliance requirements, which may deter some employers from wishing to be involved in Apprenticeships
Professional Apprenticeships Task and Finish Group
“Good progress has been made across numerous aspects of the apprenticeships agenda over the last year. But there are still many areas to improve if the system is to fully meet the needs of employers in the built environment industry. In particular we need to ensure that in these challenging times employers can realise the huge potential of the apprenticeships system to address their future skills needs.”
Tony Burton, Partner, Board Member, Gardiner & Theobald
A CIC Task and Finish Group will investigate such issues in greater depth and seek to identify potential improvements to the Apprenticeships system from a sector specific perspective. It is important to find out how it’s working for the built environment industry, to understand what’s going well (and what isn’t).
The aim will be to identify improvements which would make the system work better for the built environment industry and generate a series of practical recommendations which could be presented to policy makers for action:
- To specify how the industry can derive greater value from the apprenticeships system following the introduction of the Levy
- To make recommendations to Government to implement the changes required to achieve better outcomes for employers, apprentices and the economy
- Apprenticeships at all levels (3-7) in all built environment subjects
- To identify the main challenges experienced by employers in dealing with the apprenticeships system (e.g. in terms of availability of standards, use of Levy funds, flexibility to address business needs etc, taking account of a range of data sources)
- To articulate actionable improvements to the apprenticeships system for the benefit of the built environment industry
- To make specific evidence-based recommendations to policy makers
- Interim report by May 2019, timed to coincide with the second anniversary of the Apprenticeship Levy - the point at which employers start to lose access to unspent Levy funds.
The Task and Finish Group will represent the views of constituencies including employers, trailblazer groups, professional institutions, education providers and communicate effectively with others, including Institute for Apprenticeships & Technical Education, CITB, Construction Leadership Council, CBEE Advisory Committee and Government and its relevant departments.
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Contributor: Aled Williams is Director of Research, Innovation and Partnerships at University College of Estate Management. (https://www.ucem.ac.uk/)