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2020 / 2021 Edition

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Attracting talent and tackling the skills gap

Paula Wardle

Ibstock urging construction industry to strengthen commitment to apprenticeship schemes

A NEW report published by the skills and education think tank EDSK has found that millions of pounds of the Government’s Apprenticeship Levy is being spent on so-called ‘fake apprenticeship schemes’, which, in reality, are ‘re-labelled degrees or training courses for existing staff’.

The publication of the EDSK report follows an investigation by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), which revealed the sector must attract more than 1,000 new recruits per year to meet projected growth targets over the next decade.

Now, Ibstock plc, the UK’s leading manufacturer of clay and concrete building products, are calling on the construction sector to strengthen its commitment to apprenticeship schemes and fully recognize the vital role they play in attracting the talent of tomorrow.

Paula Wardle (pictured), group learning and development manager at Ibstock plc, explained: ‘Since launching in April 2017, the Apprenticeship Levy has been a vital resource for bringing younger people into the workforce, enabling businesses to provide vocational training and real-world work experience. But for its full potential to be realized, businesses must ensure they are utilising it effectively.

‘Apprenticeships are particularly vital for the construction sector, with a recent report by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) finding that 60% of senior construction specialists started their career as an apprentice. What’s more, the industry is facing a widening skills gap; 22% of the current workforce are over 50 and 15% are in their 60s.

‘With upwards of 40% of the industry’s workforce heading towards retirement over the next decade, there has never been a more important time for businesses across the sector to shore-up their apprenticeship offering.’

Ibstock say they have long recognized the important role of apprenticeship schemes in tackling the skills gap and have made significant investment in their vocational skills training offering; investment that has been recognized at the highest level.

The company’s apprentice programme launched in 2012, with 40 engineering apprentices currently on the scheme. In December 2019, Ibstock Brick scooped the Gold Award for Best Apprenticeship Programme at the Training Journal Awards, with judges highlighting the business’ ‘clear understanding of best practice in learning and development…with clear evidence of the success the apprenticeship programme has achieved.’

Moreover, several of Ibstock’s current team of apprentices have been recognized nationally, including: Zak Payne, based at Ibstock Brick’s Chailey factory, who was a finalist for Make UK Manufacturing Awards in the Engineering Apprentice of the Year Category; and Ben Lumsden, a dual-skilled apprentice at the Throckley facility, who was named Advanced Apprentice of the Year at the Royal Navy Awards.

Paula Wardle continued: ‘We’re extremely proud both of our apprenticeship scheme and of the achievements of each and every one of our apprentices. They prove that there is a huge amount of talent ready to rise through the construction industry ranks, but the onus sits with businesses right across the supply chain to ensure that this potential is being recognized and harnessed.’

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