Efforts to boost the number of apprenticeships, particularly in construction, have been hampered by the government’s Apprenticeship Levy, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

Locally, colleges and schools promoted the need for more apprenticeships to be created. They opened their gates during the recent Apprentices Week to demonstrate the benefits of taking up and completing training schemes which are ‘as good as a degree’.

The latest statistics released by the Department for Education show the number of new construction apprenticeship starts for January 2019 fell to 950 compared with 1,216 the previous year. In particular, the number of starts for Level 2 apprenticeships, equivalent to GCSE level, dropped to 555 in January 2019 from 712 in January 2018.

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “These latest statistics point to a serious failure of the Government’s Apprenticeship Levy: 64% of construction firms are struggling to hire carpenters and joiners, and 61% can’t find bricklayers. The Government needs to make the Apprenticeship Levy work for small construction firms by increasing the proportion of Apprenticeship Levy vouchers to be passed down the supply chain from large to small companies from 25% to 100%. Small and medium-sized construction firms train two-thirds of all apprentices in our sector and offer training in the skills the industry actually needs – the onsite trades like plasterers and plumbers.”

Mr Berry believes that, as part of post-Brexit immigration proposals, Ministers want to close the door to Level 2 tradespeople by dubbing them ‘low skilled’ and preventing them from entering and working in the UK for more than 12 months.”

“It takes years to train quality tradespeople to become a Level 2 worker and even if we did have the time to train at this scale, there aren’t enough UK-born workers to go around as we are almost at full employment. The construction industry is facing a cliff-edge when it comes to skill shortages, and I’m concerned that we will not be able to continue growing and delivering on the Government’s housing and infrastructure targets if this state of affairs continues.”

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