Supporting the next generation through apprenticeships

Date: 03 September 2018

Discover how we are helping the construction industry tackle its skills shortage by encouraging more apprentices and understand how you could benefit.

The construction sector is in the grips of a skills shortage, which is limiting construction activity and increasing labour costs. We are making strides to help increase the uptake of apprenticeships in the construction sector with a number of different initiatives which are run through the Thistle Partnership programme. Read our blog to learn more and understand how you could benefit from our initiatives.

In order to tackle this skills shortage, it’s important that the industry finds a way to attract new talent, with apprenticeships often cited as one of the most effective ways of doing so. There is an onus on manufacturers and other players to step up and support the construction industry as it grapples to solve the problem. 

A recent report by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) stated that the industry will need to find 157,000 new recruits by 2021 in order to keep up with demand. In response, the Government announced plans to bring an additional three million apprenticeship starts across all industries by 2020, however apprenticeship starts have dropped by 29% since the apprenticeship levy was introduced in 2017. 

It was a controversial move, with many experts debating whether or not the levy is the most effective way to solve the issue at hand. As a company, we support the Apprenticeship Levy and are happy to commit the money to helping develop better apprenticeship programmes, but don’t believe our work should end there. In fact, our efforts to help nurture the next generation of plastering and drylining talent already go much further and there is plenty of opportunity to take advantage of this, especially if you are interested in joining the trade, or are an employer wanting to explore taking on an apprentice. 

Over the last decade, we have invested extensively into developing the necessary support structures to bring more young people into the industry. Whether it’s helping to develop new industry apprenticeship standards, or working with colleges through the Thistle Partnership we’re helping to tackle the issue from a number of fronts. 


The Thistle Partnership

One of the key ways we are supporting the next generation of talented tradespeople is through our Thistle Partnership programme. We established the partnership to develop closer relationships with and support further education colleges across the UK. Forming closer bonds with the colleges helps us to provide students and apprentices with better access to the latest products, resources and industry expertise. 

We recently helped develop a new higher quality plasterer apprenticeship programme as part of the Government’s new Trailblazer Apprenticeships initiative. The course, which was developed in collaboration with the Federation of Master Builders’ (FMB) aims to produce plasterers that are broadly skilled and drive up standards in the industry, as it pushes to meet the Government’s apprenticeship targets.

Federation of master builders

It was vital that the new Plasterer Trailblazer Apprenticeships would be relevant for the modern plastering and drylining industry, as such, our Academy team was on hand to assist throughout the process. The apprenticeship will arm young people with the skills they need to progress their future careers with two optional routes for final qualification – solid or fibrous plastering. 

We do still have some reservations, as all the formal routes of training for plasterer apprenticeships will now be three years, where previously the most common route for apprentice plasters was the 2-year, NVQ- Level 2 programme. It remains to be seen whether or not all the colleges already running the 2-year programme will have the resources to now adopt the three-year route. However, we are on hand to help upskill the tutors and provide additional resource to support them in delivering it. 

Furthermore, there is speculation that by December applications to join the 2-year scheme will close. There is uncertainty as to how successful the 3-year programme will be from an employer support perspective as the Trailblazer requires 20% of time spent off site.

With the announcement of the Apprenticeship Levy, which takes 0.5% of an employer’s wage bill where this is over  £3 million and is collected monthly via the Pay as You Earn (PAYE) mechanism, or  if a company has 50 employees or more with a pay bill of less than 3 million, or less than 50 employees where the apprentice is 19 years or older and not on a support programme, the scheme is a co-funded model, with employers also expected to contribute. 

Elsewhere in an effort to support plasterers wishing to take on an apprentice, we are working in collaboration with some of our Thistle Partnership colleges by trialing an Apprentice Matching scheme. Through this initiative we offer plasterers the knowledge and support they need to put the business infrastructure in place so they can take on an apprentice. Our partner colleges will then support them in finding keen young apprentices to take on. The initiative is at the early stages of development but we believe the need is there and it is something we look forward to progressing.    

Discover how British Gypsum is helping the construction industry tackle the skills shortage by encouraging more apprentices

Gaining a construction apprenticeship can be the first step in a long, fruitful career. As a company, we’re proud to support young people in going down the apprenticeship path as well as employers wishing to deliver them, and will continue to persevere with the efforts we’re making. There are a number of options on offer to young people looking to make it in the trade, with information specific to your local area available via the CITB GoConstruct website. 

Find out more information about British Gypsum’s apprenticeship initiatives

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