The Conservative Party Conference and the Construction Industry
Last week’s Conservative Party Conference brought some good news for the construction industry here in the UK in the form of a £90 million cash injection from the government into the Apprenticeship Scheme. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond announced a shakeup of the Apprenticeship Levy in response to criticism claiming that training reforms have been too inflexible. Stating that business is a vital part of our social economy and our communities, Hammond recognised the productivity challenge as a priority for everybody, asserting that it results in low wages and sluggish growth. He also stated his belief that the disaffection with politics in the UK is largely because there have been no real wage increases in the past ten years for so many people.
In future, employers will be able to use up to 25% of their apprenticeship levy funds on people working for businesses in their supply chain. Until now, levy funds have only been used to train apprentices on one of the new apprenticeship standards approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships and apprentices had to be directly employed by the employer using the levy funding.
Training is becoming an increasingly vital issue as we face Brexit. The Guardian warned last week that male workers with few qualifications will be the hardest hit by the fresh barriers to trade after Britain leaves the European Union. According the one of the UK’s leading think tanks, The Institute for Fiscal Studies, men who left school with GCSE qualifications or below will be the most vulnerable, especially in the manufacturing industry. These are often men who are older and have skills that are specific to their current jobs – they are likely to find it difficult to move into better paid employment in the industries that are not so badly affected by Brexit.
This represents an opportunity for the construction industry to attract a host of new recruits and train them in the requisite skills so that they can do the jobs that have, in the past, been filled by European workers. While many of the construction industry’s recruitment initiatives, such as the Apprenticeship Scheme, tend to focus on school leavers, there are plenty of adults who could also be recruited into our sector. One of the benefits of taking on adult recruits is that they are already likely to be used to working and have developed a good work ethic.
The construction industry is experiencing a dearth of skilled workers right now and this is likely to get worse once Britain leaves the EU. Industry leaders have expressed concern that the sector may struggle to meet the requirements of the 21st Century so taking on older recruits and offering them the opportunity to retrain and gain new skills that can be used to benefit both themselves and the construction sector is a great way to address this problem.
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