LAST WORD: Apprentices could fill installer shortfall

04 Jun, 14

Carol Kavanagh, group human resources director for Travis Perkins Group says apprenticeships may answer trade shortage

2014 should be a good year for property prices, if the increases seen in the latter part of 2013 and early part of this year are anything to go by. These past 12 months have seen the highest rises since prior to the recession, with prices increasing by 8% in the year to the end of March. An improved market means there are more and more homeowners looking to improve their existing or newly purchased properties and there is no doubt that this is good news for the industry with demand for building work increasing as a result. However, such an increase in demand will require an increase in tradesmen if it is to be met.

Shortfall of tradespeople

In fact, if requirements are to be fulfilled, the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) estimates 182,000 new jobs will need to be filled between 2014 and 2018. At current rates, however, this is looking unlikely, with government figures revealing rates are falling rather than rising, with just 14,000 apprenticeships created in the construction, housing and environmental build sector in 2012-3 – down by almost a third on 2010-11. Clearly then, the industry is facing a serious shortfall of trained, experienced tradespeople as new entrants continue to decline.

Support for apprentices

Homeowners and house buyers are already feeling the effects of this critical skills shortage, and are keen to find solutions. In fact, research by the Travis Perkins Group reveals huge support amongst homeowners for the creation of more apprenticeships. Some 70% of UK homeowners think that building firms with a turnover of over £500,000 should be required to take on an apprentice each year, while 55% believe the government should pay for a year’s apprenticeship for people aged 19-24 who come into the building trade. More apprenticeships could certainly help to meet this increased demand for building work, but they are important for other reasons too.

Sponsored Video

Passing-on skills

Fostering skills and training through apprenticeships is not only essential for the industry as a whole, but also for individual businesses as a way of passing on skills and boosting their long-term prospects through a constant supply of skilled workers. Youth unemployment is also a very topical issue, with recently released government figures revealing that 19% of 16-24 year olds were unemployed between December 2013 and February 2014 . This is certainly something the creation of more apprenticeships could have a positive impact upon.

Apprenticeships are also important for those who want to retrain, and 48% of those questioned said there should be a special government scheme to help people re-train later in life, with 64% thinking there should be a special government programme targeted at the long-term unemployed to train them in building skills and to find them apprenticeships. More apprenticeships could also potentially aid the government, with an increase in apprenticeship numbers helping to bolster the government’s commitment to building new homes.

Commited to apprenticeships

At Travis Perkins, we have a huge commitment to apprenticeships, and our own longstanding scheme has provided us with many excellent staff, with chief executive John Carter one of many executives that have risen up the ladder through our management apprenticeship scheme. This year, we are widening our commitment, looking to bring 138 apprentices into the Group, the largest number of which will be in the General Merchanting Division, which plans to recruit 105 apprentices for the two-year programme, up from 40 in 2013 and 30 in 2012. There is no doubt that apprenticeships are hugely valuable, offering an essential way of passing on skills and boosting the long-term prospects of both the industry itself, and the businesses that employ them. And, with the UK housing market booming once more, the more apprentice positions the industry creates, the more able it will surely be to meet demand.