Construction audit and CIS contract provider Hudson Contract has expressed its “intense frustration” at the way the government’s National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) is being implemented.
New figures show that there has been a fall in apprentice numbers of almost 60% between May and July this year, compared to the same period in 2016, with only 48,000 people starting a recognised training course.
Hudson Contract Chairman, David Jackson said: “We are passionate about getting young people into the construction industry and in anticipation of NAS, we formed a partnership with Leeds College of Building, the country’s foremost specialist centre for education and training in construction.
“Since April, when NAS began, we have paid in over £100,000 via the levy and we are happy to do so. However, we have not yet been able to draw down a single penny to fund the Apprenticeship grants we were expecting to provide. We can’t act because we cannot access the grants. So, the collapse in Apprenticeship numbers since the new system began has come as a bitter disappointment – but sadly, no surprise.
“The courses at Leeds Building College cost between £6,000 and £9,000, so if we were able to access the funds we have contributed, as many as 16 apprentices could now have begun their careers in construction – an industry with an acknowledged skills shortage.
“No matter how hard we have tried – and we have tried very hard indeed – we have been able to unlock the funds to which we are told we are entitled.
“The NAS website has been promising to add ‘further information’ about how transferring funds between organisations will work during the autumn. But it’s winter now, and there has been no update. It’s more than just intensely frustrating. It’s an absolute disgrace that is prejudicing the workplace opportunities for the very school leavers the National Apprenticeship Service is supposed to help.”
Bridlington-based Hudson Contract set up its own Apprentice Sponsorship Scheme in 2011.
“Unlike the NAS, our project is simple and straightforward, we pay 50 per cent of each apprentice’s wages for the first year of their training. I am delighted to report that we have just sponsored our one hundredth apprentice, Patrick Casey, who is now training to be a carpenter at Leeds College of Building.
“We can only hope it won’t be too long before we can help another 16 youngsters, at least, to join Patrick at the college. It certainly won’t be for lack of persistence on the part of Hudson Contract, although I am concerned about the stipulation that we need to have accessed our grants within two years of paying the levy.”
For more information about Hudson Contract and its Apprentice Scholarship Scheme, click here.