The Brick Development Association welcomes the recent commitment from Ed Miliband to encourage apprenticeships. There is a growing skills shortage in the construction sector, and the BDA, together with its sister organisation the Association of Brickwork Contractors (ABC), recognises that the only way to address this over the long term is to focus on vocational training.
While ABC members have traditionally supported apprentices and recognised their responsibility to train construction workers, this is by no means the norm throughout the industry.
There has never been a shortage of young people wanting to take up apprenticeships. The problem has always been a lack of companies willing to commit to the lengthy training programme that is required to produce a skilled tradesman.
Ed Miliband’s proposal appears to understand this issue and it is good to see a requirement for larger contractors working on government contracts to support apprentice training.
We would also like to see the process simplified for the small and medium sized enterprises who have traditionally been the most active supporters of apprenticeships in our sector. We do not feel that the recommendations of the Richard Report – the current Government’s suggested reform of apprenticeships – to have been helpful in this regard.
At the present moment, with an urgent skills shortage to be addressed, we at the BDA have recognised that a further problem for college students is the lack of an obvious communication channel between the training colleges and commercial enterprises. We have therefore taken a practical approach by establishing a series of road shows designed to bring the two groups together and create a channel of opportunity for college students into the workplace. Called #LOVEBRICK, this road show visited 10 colleges in 2014 and the BDA is in the process of planning the programme for 2015.
However, in the longer term, we would suggest that the construction industry as a whole needs to recognise that the only way to ensure a continued supply of skilled workers is to embed a culture of training into all organisations.
The sector of most concern to our members is the housebuilding sector. Government initiatives such as that announced by Ed Miliband can help encourage organisations to consider apprenticeships, but ultimately the most important factor will be a more stable market. If companies can be confident of a relatively predictable market demand they will be far more likely to commit the time and money required to train the next generation of skilled tradespeople.
For more information visit www.brick.org.uk