Home Insights BLOG: James Wates CBE: Train to win

This coming week (6-10 March) happens to be National Apprenticeship Week, but apprenticeships are front and centre in peoples attentions for plenty of other reasons as well.

The governments recent housing white paper referred to apprenticeships as a key element in addressing the skills shortage, which was well analysed by last years Farmer Report. Apprenticeships are, according to the white paper, one way of helping the UK build homes faster. Meanwhile, the governments Industrial Strategy, published in green paper form at the end of January, included a pillar specifically relating to skills, and this paper, too, places significant emphasis on the use of apprenticeships.

Admittedly, for many of us, hiring apprentices is not a matter of choice. Were now just a month away from the start of the apprenticeship levy. It is naturally focusing our minds, as 0.5% of companies payroll will be paid into the pot (with an allowance of £15,000 to ensure that companies whose PAYE bill is less than £3m will not have to pay). And the only way for companies paying the levy to benefit from it is to use their vouchers for training apprentices they hire.

For many companies, coming on top of the existing CITB levy, this new levy is tough. Nonetheless, we can keep a positive attitude. Indeed, it is in our best interests to work within the spirit of the national scheme, and focus on what industry and the broader economy need, not just work the system and hire apprentices in order to recoup ones money.

So, how do we do that?

In a post-Brexit world, the next generation of workers whether tradesmen, technicians, or managers will have to be home grown

I should highlight also that the CITB is working closely with the government to ensure that the new apprenticeship standards are aligned with the full range of business needs, as well as developing innovative ways to help individuals achieve basic literacy and numeracy requirements.

As I mentioned earlier, in some ways there is not a choice of whether or not to hire apprenticeships. But what is a choice is how we go about it.

Don’t forget that we are in a war for talent. Yes, in some way this is a competitive issue, with many companies competing against each other for the limited skills available. But it is also a collective effort: as a sector, we have to convince more young people to join us. In a post-Brexit world, the next generation of workers whether tradespeople, technicians, or managers will have to be home grown.

Apprenticeships are not a silver bullet solution for this, but we would be foolish not to take advantage of the opportunities we now have to make apprenticeships a stronger, more integrated part of how we boost our sector skills and more broadly restore national pride in our profession.

This article was originally published in Building Magazine