The government’s proposed voucher model for apprenticeship funding is an improvement on what was formerly proposed and shows that ministers have listened to the construction industry, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).
Commenting on last week’s Budget Statement, Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “It’s been a long and bumpy road since the Richard Review first touted the idea of putting the purchasing power back in the hands of the employer but the government has finally set out a clear direction of travel in terms of its apprenticeship funding reforms. The new digital apprenticeship voucher model is a vast improvement on what was formerly proposed. However, we do still have some concerns about the potential for this new system to add additional administrative burden for small firms. To counter this, we will be working closely with the next government to minimise any added bureaucracy. For SMEs, bureaucracy is the biggest barrier to engagement in any scheme so industry and government must work together to help ensure this new system does not have a detrimental impact on apprenticeship numbers.”
Berry continued: “The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) predicts that an additional 200,000 jobs will be created in the construction industry over the next five years and up to 400,000 people could retire over the same period. It’s therefore crucial that government does nothing to undermine the desire or ability of small construction firms to train apprentices. Let’s not forget, two-thirds of all construction apprentices are trained by the very smallest firms so we need to carefully develop a framework which works for them, not against them.”
Berry concluded: “The message we want our members and all small construction firms to take away is that regardless of the forthcoming changes, until 2017, it’s business as usual in terms of apprenticeship funding. With the skills time bomb ticking ever more loudly, the last thing we need is for employers to stop hiring apprentices in the interim. According to our latest survey, 20% of FMB members are currently training apprentices which is up from 18% two years ago. However we need more small employers – and all large employers – to recognise the commercial value of training apprentices and do their bit to help close the skills gap.”