“Finding a sustainable solution to bridging the construction skills gap has been a challenge that the construction industry has faced for many years. Add to this the industry’s ageing work force and it’s clear that we are running out of time.
Apprenticeships and training featured heavily in the Conservative Party’s manifesto but it remains to be seen what real changes the new Government will implement and how soon these will come into effect.
In the meantime, there are still things that businesses both large and small can do to raise the profile of the construction industry as a viable and long-term career choice.
When looking at how to attract new talent to the construction industry, it is always worth taking the long view. Technical colleges are great breeding grounds for talented young people who have already developed an interest in a particular discipline but there is much to be said for raising awareness of the different construction career choices with younger children too by taking part in careers talks and fairs at secondary, and even primary, schools.
Companies that may not be able to commit to long-term apprenticeship schemes can still make a difference by offering work experience to young people, which if done well, will help to nurture their skills and interests.
Of course, many construction companies do take on apprentices and have done for many years. The painting and decorating industry in particular has a long and successful track record of developing young workers to become masters of their trade.
Many of our supply chain partners have successfully embraced flexible apprenticeships programmes, such as those that combine part-time paid work placements with study for a formal qualification at college.
Others have created their own bespoke training centres that work in partnership with local colleges to enhance the way that students can learn their craft.
Such a proactive approach is hugely beneficial as it provides a ‘work-ready’ candidate at the end of the process and can help build relationships with local schools and colleges for future recruitment.
Companies that see the value of apprentices are also more likely to have a long-term strategy for the continuous development and training of their employees and this is key to both attracting and retaining people of all ages.
With many of the headlines focusing on how many skilled workers are still needed to support the future growth of the construction industry, it’s important not to overlook or undermine the progress that has already been made.
There are several industry events and awards schemes that are dedicated to recognising and rewarding the talents of young apprentices, and highlighting the commitment of the companies that have supported them.
Crown Paints’ Apprentice Decorator of the Year competition has been running for over 40 years, which is a fitting testament to the painting and decorating industry’s long-term investment in apprenticeships.
Today it is held in association with SkillBuild and the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) as part of the national WorldSkills show. This provides a well-publicised platform and a career-building opportunity for apprentices to compete against their peers, and makes a positive statement about the way young people are valued and supported.
There are other trade-specific competitions out there of course, as well as regional and national award schemes, many of which have a category based around apprentices or training.
Simply by shining a spotlight on the work you and your apprentices do can play a big role in bringing the industry out of the shadows and building a brighter future.
Whether you’re a big company with a big budget or a sole trader who has a wealth of knowledge to share, by investing time in nurturing new and emerging talent in whatever way you can, small steps can lead to a big change for the construction industry and those who work within it.”
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