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Construction apprenticeships down 10% as applications soar

Construction apprenticeships have fallen by 10 per cent in 2013 while the number of applications has risen, according to new figures from the National Apprenticeships Service.

The latest research comes amid calls for local authorities to better understand major construction to help improve apprenticeship uptake.

The NAS figures show the total number of construction apprenticeships advertised lagged behind other industries during the period.

In the three months to May, 1,635 construction apprenticeships were advertised through the NAS online database, down 10.4 per cent from 1,824 vacancies on offer in the same period last year.

“We want more employers to take advantage of the advice and support available from the National Apprenticeship Service and consider how hiring an apprentice could benefit their business”

Skills minister Matthew Hancock MP

The number of applications submitted increased 10.6 per cent year on year from 6,050 between February and April 2012 to 6,690 this year, according to the latest figures.

Taking on a construction apptrentice was described as ‘a minefield’ by United House group business dvelopment director Paul Nicholls at the London Assembly earlier this month, when he called for a one-stop shop for apprentices.

Bam Construct director John Phillips said one reason for a lower number of apprenticeships in major construction is that his specialism “does not facilitate” a three-year apprenticeship.

Speaking at the UK Contractors Group’s Yorkshire and the Humber Creating Britain’s Future event, Mr Phillips, whose team delivered the £60 million Leeds Arena, said major construction is a transient sector, very different from traditional building trades such as bricklaying and plastering, which does not easily lend itself to hitting local government apprenticeship targets.

“These guys have got to be specialists at what they do, because at the end of the day you’re there to build a job on time and to the right quality and on budget,” he said.

“We need to just have a look at the way job opportunities and apprenticeships are created and dealt with by the local authorities,” he added.

NAS, which advertises around 80 per cent of all apprenticeships, says applications to building apprenticeships remained flat year on year, but there were 11.8 per cent fewer opportunities than in 2012.

Specialist construction apprenticeships are now among the most competitive across all industries with more than 20 applicants for each vacancy in the three months to May 2013.

The number of specialist construction apprenticeships advertised fell by almost 27 per cent year on year, while the number of applications submitted for those positions rocketed more than 40 per cent.

Neil Graham, managing director of Hireman, a small to medium-sized tool and plant hire firm in London, told Construction News it is “frustrating” to hear that there is a shortage of construction apprenticeships.

“We’ve tried on a number of occasions over the past six or seven years to hire an apprentice as a trainee fitter, but the only specialist training offered is in Norwich on a six-week block release system.

“We have 45 employees across three depots in London, and for an apprentice to disappear for six weeks at a time is not practical,” he said.

Civil engineering was the only area of construction to buck the trend with a 110 per cent increase in the number of apprenticeships between February and April 2013.

It was revealed in February that construction apprenticeship starts dropped by 14.6 per cent to 24,000 in 2012.  

In response to Jason Holt’s Review of Apprenticeships NAS has developed two new guides to help SMEs and large employers take on apprentices.

Skills minister Matthew Hancock MP said: “We want more employers to take advantage of the advice and support available from the National Apprenticeship Service and consider how hiring an apprentice could benefit their business.”

Commenting on the overall figures, he added: “With more vacancies that ever before, Apprenticeships are fast becoming the norm for young people who want to achieve their career goals through an alternative route to university.”

The number of applications made for technical, supervision and management construction apprenticeships increased 480 per cent to 290, but the number of vacancies fell by almost 67 per cent to just 21.

Across all industries, the number of apprenticeship vacancies increased by almost 15 per cent on last year in the three months to May 2013 and almost 370,000 applications were submitted – a year on year growth of 32 per cent.

Figures revealed there were 7,702 vacancies in business and administration, 2,700 in customer service, 1,991 in childcare, 1,771 in manufacture craft and technician, and 1,720 in hospitality, compared to 1,635 in construction.

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