The government’s announcement that bids for public sector contracts worth more than £10 million must demonstrate a clear commitment to apprenticeship training will help boost apprenticeships numbers, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).
Sarah McMonagle, head of external affairs at the FMB, said: “Almost 40% of construction output comes from public sector contracts and therefore the government has a responsibility to use its buying power to drive positive change in our industry – this is particularly the case with apprenticeship training. Lowering the threshold from £50 million to £10 million should assist. At present, two thirds of all construction apprentices are trained by micro firms but all businesses – large and small – need to increase the number of apprentices they are training if we have any hope of reaching the government’s target of three million new apprenticeships by 2020.”
McMonagle added: “Large firms employing hundreds of people are working their way towards a 5% target but let’s remember that for micro firms training apprentices, their apprentices constitute upwards of 10% of their workforce. We hope that the measures set out in today’s consultation drive up apprenticeship training among large employers and help ensure these bigger firms play a greater role in training our future workforce. At the same time, it is absolutely critical that support for small firms, which train the majority of construction apprentices, is not lessened as part of the government’s next round of spending cuts.”
McMonagle concluded: “The construction industry in particular is facing a skills time bomb with 400,000 workers expected to retired over the next five to ten years. This is very concerning given that the skills shortage is already starting to bite – research by the FMB published earlier this week shows that two thirds small construction firms have been forced to turn down new business due to a lack of labour. Almost half have been forced to outsource work to third parties rather than leave work unfinished. The skills shortage looming large in our industry and the only way to address it in the medium to longer term is to train more apprentices.”