Aggregate Industries have responded to the fact the apprenticeship levy has come under scrutiny as ‘not being fit for purpose’, a year after implementation.
The company has stated all construction companies, whether levy applicable or not, must help to attract the next generation or risk the dangers of an escalating skills gap.
Launched in April last year, the apprenticeship levy means employers with a wage bill of over £3 million must pay a 0.5% of their total payroll to fund apprenticeships.
The purpose is to raise £3 billion per annum to meet a target of three million new ‘high quality’ apprentice start-ups by 2020.
A year on, the levy has come under heavy criticism for being too complex and inflexible, resulting in companies actually being put off from taking on apprentices.
However, Aggregate has stated the industry cannot afford to neglect the importance of attracting the next talent pool, irregardless of their stance on the levy.
David Butterfield, Head of Learning and Development at Aggregate Industries, said they can understand how businesses may find the new funding regime somewhat confusing but stressed dismissing the levy altogether is dangerous.
“We must remember that the construction talent pool pipeline is already at a record low and we still await the full impact of Brexit on the stream of EU workers we rely upon,” he said.
“At the same time, we have huge housing targets to meet, not to mention increased demand from big infrastructure projects such as Crossrail and HS2.
“As such, it is essential that construction businesses, whether big or small, make a serious commitment to attracting the next generation.
“For levy-paying businesses, this means taking the time to understand how they can use their levy monies and take action – the hope being that the system will be reformed to be more simple and efficient in time.
“Conversely, there is lots of support for non-levy paying companies – in England up to 90% of the cost of training can be covered by the government via a ‘co-investment’. Plus, all employers can receive a £1,000 incentive towards taking on a school-leaver.”
According to the Federation of Master Builders, January this year saw the construction worker shortage hit its worst recorded level, massively threatening its ability to deliver on proposed new build targets.
With a substantial proportion of Britain’s construction workforce consisting of EU workers, the overwhelming feeling is the skills gulf is going to deepen further.
David added: “With new technologies and methods of working, such as BIM, irrevocably transforming the face of modern construction, it has never been a more exciting or lucrative time to join our industry.
“Yet there is still this misconception that jobs are mainly for men and, in a lot of cases, low-paid and low skilled.
“As an industry then, clearly we must take up the mantel and inspire students to join our sector in order to ensure we have a future workforce – and taking stock of all available support is vital in this.”
Aggregate runs an extensive apprenticeship programme aimed at giving people a platform to learn new skills and develop them in a live environment, as a solid basis for career development.
Every year, the business takes on a large number of new apprentices who can go on to enjoy fruitful careers in construction and engineering.
The business has taken 49 levy-funded apprentices since its introduction, including 17 higher apprentices.
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