National Apprenticeship Week launches today

Today sees the launch of National Apprenticeship Week (NAW2018), and here we look at what the campaign involves and what people think of it.

It’s a week of celebration and information on how apprenticeships could be the ideal way to find the job and successful career you are looking for – one that can be particularly rewarding in the construction sector.

Whatever your age – and national statistics show that nearly half of apprenticeships across the board are started by people over 25 – this is a great combination of on- and off-site learning and experience, guided by knowledgeable tutors and mentors.

From small firms to national and international companies, there is a plethora of disciplines and projects to choose from – and as you’ll see from the stories and profiles we’ll be publishing this week, this variety can suit almost every background and ambition.

Running from 5 to 9 March and coordinated by the National Apprenticeship Service, this week’s event aims to inform and celebrate. With the help of many organisations, colleges and employers, there is real variety in ways to learn more about what an apprenticeship entails and how you can find the right one for you.

Sue Husband, director of National Apprenticeship Service, has made a video to explain what this week is about:

The National Apprenticeship Week campaign is widely supported across the industry. Jenny Herdman, director of the Home Builders Federation which represents many of the UK’s large and small housebuilding companies, says: “Getting more apprentices into the industry is key. We want more of the brightest and best young people training and growing in our industry. Our challenge is to work out the best route for that to happen through the industry framework we have and assisting subcontractors in particular to play their part in recruiting the young people we need.”

The HBF sees the crucial role that housebuilders themselves should play in giving the right people the right career path, she says: “Apprenticeships offer great opportunities, but they must reflect the employers overall growth and people plans. The best result must be that they are part of a clear career pathway. They must also take account of the employment structure of the industry – something I think we could do better in construction when so many workers are self-employed. New degree apprenticeships are a great opportunity for home builders and many are starting to offer them in key roles where they have a shortage, for example quantity surveyors.”

While the apprenticeship levy saw a dramatic fall in the number of these opportunities offered directly after launch, Herdman believes housebuilders need to play their part in bringing numbers back up within the industry, along with other career options: “The apprenticeship levy has made many employers review how apprenticeships fit into their business. Home builders have traditionally always been involved in apprenticeships but now are broadening the roles they use them for. We are also encouraging them to encourage and support their subcontractor supply chains to use apprenticeships to grow their businesses. As well as apprentices we also need to see a focus on all the other routes into our industry so we increase capacity in as many ways as possible.”

One of the UK housebuilders most admired for its approach to apprenticeships is Leicestershire-based William Davis Homes, notable for the talent of its apprentices and the way it recruits and nurtures them.

The company’s M&E and apprentice manager, Gary Long, says: “Apprenticeships have been a vital source of talent for our business. Each year, we seek to employ up to ten craft apprentices to join our award-winning scheme, which trains aspiring young bricklayers, carpenter/joiners, plumbers, electricians and plant mechanics to NVQ standard. Applications rise year on year, and the closing date for our 2018 intake falls within National Apprenticeship Week.

“We strongly believe that apprenticeships have a significant role to play in overcoming the skills shortage facing the industry and its associated challenges; most notably increasing the awareness of construction careers as a viable option for young people and attracting underrepresented groups into construction.

“Our scheme has been running for over 50 years and we estimate it has trained almost 500 apprentices in this time. We’re exceptionally proud of this longevity, not only has it enabled us to train and retain a directly employed workforce and therefore demonstrate consistently high quality build, endorsed by our status as an HBF five-star housebuilder, but also for the careers it has forged. In some cases, this has resulted in more than 30 years’ service and roles within senior management or on the executive board.”

As we’ll see over the week, and seen over the past few months, apprenticeships are not limited to those leaving school. There is a variety of apprenticeships open to graduates, again combining work with day-release studies.

One of the companies offering these is Lovell. Its operations director Mike Maxwell, says: “Lovell is committed to diversity and recruiting bright, motivated graduates with the potential to become the future leaders of its business and offers opportunities in specific areas, such as site management and quantity surveying.”

This week sees hundreds of apprenticeship events taking place across the country to give people the chance to learn more about what an apprenticeship is, as well as to talk to the companies who are offering the chance to start at career this way – including some of the UK’s best housebuilders. Many schools and colleges are also giving visitors the chance to see what courses they offer.

Come to listen and talk about housebuilding careers – apprenticeship, diversity, training and leadership – at our New Homes Debate in London on Thursday 15 March 2018.

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