How to promote and develop apprenticeships in the construction industry

Written by Dean Dallman

As construction bounces back from the pandemic, fresh talent and new skills are needed, but what more can the sector do to promote apprenticeships and develop apprentices?

Alongside Celsa UK, Engineering UK and Project Centre we hosted a webinar to discuss: 

  • The current challenges the construction is facing in recruiting and nurturing apprentices
  • How we can change perceptions of the sector to attract young people and mid-career professionals
  • The options that are available to organisations looking to develop apprenticeship programmes

The panel included our CEO Paul Devoy, Celsa UK’s former apprentice and current Apprenticeships Manager Terry Collier, Engineering UK’s Head of Public Affairs & Policy Beatrice Barleon and Project Centre’s Deputy Managing Director Ken Simmonds.

Read on for a summary of the conversation, or scroll to the bottom to re-watch the webinar. Although the discussion was primarily set around the construction sector, the insights can be attributed to ANY sector when it comes to apprenticeships.

Addressing the key challenges around apprenticeships

Graduate vs Apprentice

Society has created a divisive model where apprenticeships and universities compete against each other for young talent. At the moment, employers have a default setting in their mindset to add a degree requirement in their job descriptions. This has to change. According to the St Martin’s Group, 98% of employers with apprentices say they’ve experienced additional benefits including addressing skills shortages, providing value for money and improving diversity.

If you want to dive into Construction specifically, 70% of employers in the industry highlighted that apprentices helped them plug skills gaps, while 53% highlighted apprentices being a cost-effective labour source and 39% said it helped them improve their public image.

Now we are not saying that it’s one or the other. But what we are saying is there must be an equilibrium between Apprentices and Graduates. The statistics speak for themselves. Apprentices benefit business.

But why aren’t more employers hiring or offering apprenticeships? Well, that might be because 80% of employers have reported barriers to recruiting, including time management and identifying the right apprenticeship programme.

That’s where we can help! Commissioned by the Department for Education, we developed a framework called We invest in apprentices. The framework exists to help employers create and maintain the best apprenticeship programmes. If you want to attract and retain the best apprentice talent and stand out from other employers, you need to consider this accreditation.

Do young people know enough about apprenticeships to make an informed choice?

According to the Engineering and Brand monitor survey, only around 43% of young people are aware of the options available to them, raising concerns about how apprenticeships are marketed.

This isn’t anything new either. In the Employer Skills survey in 2002 and come forward 20 years now the same problems around perception still exist, especially in STEM subjects.

The industry has never created equilibrium between supply and demand for skills on both sides, with apprentices still saying they can’t get suitable apprenticeships in the industry and employers saying they can’t find suitable candidates. Remember that 80% figure we mentioned earlier?

What we can say is that when apprenticeships are packaged properly by an employer, they become a more attractive proposition. If you want an action plan for your apprenticeship programme, as well as an accreditation that makes you stand out to apprentices as an employer of choice, and to other organisations as the example to follow, then you need We invest in apprentices.

Using apprenticeships to upskill professionals

Have you ever thought about using apprenticeships to upskill your CURRENT employees? In 2019/20, 47% of apprenticeship starts were by people aged 25 and above. Apprenticeships aren’t just for school leavers. They’re for everyone.

A great example of this is Kim at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, a We invest in apprentices Gold employer. We sat down with Kim in February ’22 to talk to her about her career change, and how she used an apprenticeship to make the pivot. Check it out here.

And that’s just a small taste!

Make sure you watch the full webinar where the panel continued to discuss topics such as hybrid and remote working, diversity and making apprenticeships greener.

Catch the full webinar here…

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