Official government figures have now been published which confirm the significant reduction in 16-18 apprenticeship starts across the board. With the construction industry on the whole very active at the present, Caroline Turner, Director of Policy & External Relations at JTL, discusses the importance of building new talent in the building services engineering sector now.
A shrinking economy with construction on the rise
Official figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), reveal that the UK’s real gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 2.6% in November 2020. Yet, the latest construction output figures suggest that the construction sector was largely unaffected by the reintroduction of lockdown restrictions in November.
During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is extremely positive that our sector can continue to operate, although obviously with necessary health and safety and social distancing measures. Read more in our blog, ‘Electricians, plumbing and heating engineers… keeping the economy moving’, here.
Latest industry data
The DfE’s latest apprenticeships data for Q1 2019-20, which covers the period after the first lockdown, and includes the initial and limited impact of Rishi Sunak’s Plan for Jobs incentives, shows a 28% decline generally in apprenticeship starts compared to last year. As the pandemic has had a huge impact on the education sector, it is no surprise that apprenticeships have taken a hit. Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on 22 February, which outlined his four-step plan to release England from lockdown, we now have a much more positive outlook – it is time to regroup and commit going forwards!
February’s UK Domestic Trade Skills Index highlights that a staggering 1.25million extra construction trades workers are needed by 2030. The report also identifies that one fifth of construction trade workers aged 55 or over will retire before 2030, as well as indicating that the number of EU workers in the UK is likely to drop by an extra 22% by 2030. The findings of the full report reveal that not addressing the current trades skill gap, combined with the impact of reduced European skilled labour and an ageing workforce, could lead to a prolonged shortage of key trades, and in turn, seriously hinder the UK’s economic recovery.
Funding boosts help the young unemployed
In his Spring Budget (3rd March 2021), Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed a number of new investments for the FE and skills sector.
The financial incentives introduced as part of the Chancellor’s Plan for Jobs last year, offered employers £2,000 to take on apprentices aged 16 to 24 and £1,500 for those aged 25 and over. Following the Budget, these bonuses have been extended for a further six months to September.
Furthermore, any employers who hire a new apprentice between 1 April 2021 and 30 September 2021 will receive £3,000 per new hire, regardless of the apprentice’s age.
These incentives are on top of the £1,000 payment already provided for new apprentices aged 16 to 18 and those under 25 with an Education, Health and Care Plan, resulting in some employers receiving a total of £4,000.
Sunak has also pledged an additional £126 million in England for “high quality” work placements and training for 16- to 24-year-olds in the 2021/22 academic year, which is hoped to attract a further 40,000 traineeship starts next year. A Traineeship supports young people to gain the skills and experience they need from the very start, helping them to progress to a job, an apprenticeship, or pursue further study.
Additionally, Apprenticeship and Skills Minister, Gillian Keegan MP, has recently confirmed that employers will be able to apply for a £1,000 cash boost to help them take on new trainees as part of the government Traineeship programme.
The cash incentive – which is available until 31 July 2021 – will help businesses with the cost of providing a high-quality work placement for a trainee. This includes providing facilities, uniforms or helping with travel costs.
Businesses offering new traineeship opportunities will receive the £1,000 bonus for every trainee they take on with up to a maximum of 10 trainees per region (so potentially up to 90). Employers can claim the cash incentive for all work placements that have been completed since 1 September 2020.
You can apply for the Traineeship incentive payment by using the registration form available here.
Build for a better future
It has been well-documented that young people have been the hardest hit due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Although the government is acknowledged the importance of apprenticeships in helping the UK economy recover post Covid-19, it is now time for both learners and employers to take action to build for a better future.
After a year of challenges and uncertainty, we are encouraging employers to take immediate action and utilise the government’s financial help for apprenticeships. Employing an apprentice not only further supports the individual business and learner, but it also helps the wider Covid-19 economic recovery plan.
JTL apprenticeships are available to all, no matter their background, gender or ethnic group. Whether it is a case of exploring post-16 options or looking for a change of career, an apprenticeship gives people the chance to gain skills and earn at the same time, all whilst increasing their chances of securing a job in their chosen industry.
For more information, to sign-up to a JTL apprenticeship or to access support with the government employer grants, call 0800 085 2308 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.