Displaced construction sector apprentices buck the national trend


Strong sector links and a long tradition of apprenticeships are helping the construction industry find new homes for displaced trainees.

The sector is bucking national trends for a government scheme that aims to match employers with apprentices.

The government has invested £1m cash to help support construction companies that take on apprentices who have been laid off during the recession.

The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), backed by business tsar Sir Alan Sugar, was launched earlier this year but has filled only 1,185 vacancies out of the 18,000 advertised nationwide.  However, ConstructionSkills, the UK’s sector skills council for construction, says it has filled nearly a third of the vacancies on its books through its own Apprenticeship Matching Service (AMS).

The ConstructionSkills AMS launched in 2008 and aims to match employers to apprentices who are close to completing their framework but have been unable to do so because their chosen organisation has had to lay them off due to financial pressures.

The organisation, which has a record of around 2,500 apprentices that have been unable to complete their training, says the government money will fund at least 800 trainees across the UK.

Nigel Donohue the apprenticeship programme manager for ConstructionSkills, said: “It is absolutely imperative that we do all that is possible to retain the talent within the industry in a concerted and co-ordinated effort to try and prevent a skills shortage.

“At ConstructionSkills we are successful in placing thousands of apprentices with construction companies every year throughout the UK, so it would be a real shame if these apprentices, especially those who are so close to the finish line, were lost to the industry.”

The extra government funding is being made available for construction sector apprentices in the last 12 months of their training and companies that are able to provide suitable employment can apply for financial support of up to £1,000.

Skills Minister Kevin Brennan said: “This is a welcome development which should help hundreds of apprentices to complete their training.

“As well as the support offered by ConstructionSkills, the NAS is working hard with other colleges and training providers to ensure as many construction apprentices as possible can finish their apprenticeship.”

But the Conservatives have branded the NAS, which operates across all sectors, as a “failure” relying on “celebrity gimmicks”.

“The [national] apprenticeship matching service has proved to be just another gimmick,” said shadow higher education minister David Willetts. “Instead of celebrity gimmicks like this, the government should be funding apprenticeship places and making it easier for businesses to run the schemes.”

Earlier this year the government invested £140m in 35,000 new apprenticeship places across the UK.

It has also introduced new initiatives to support apprentices whose jobs are at risk, such as allowing them to complete some of their training at a college and claim Education Maintenance Allowance or other financial support to tide them over until they find a new employer.

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