‘We need to address shortage of management apprenticeships’

Paul Caunce urges fellow employers to do more for construction management apprentices.

As I write, I’m confined to my home office, contemplating, in these unusual circumstances, the almost unique opportunity to work on personal development. Of course, there are some fantastic free-to-access MOOCs (massive open online courses), not least those from CIOB covering ethics, quality and sustainability – worthy of a place on any CPD planner. 

But for people hoping to enter the industry in construction management positions, gaining accredited qualifications can come at a prohibitively high cost, with many school-leavers reluctant to incur mountainous student debt. Apprenticeships offer a great way to learn while in paid employment and, with government subsidies, are a relatively low cost for the employer too.

However, the number of apprenticeships for construction management roles seems remarkably low. In the Sheffield area, there are 1,500 construction apprentices, of which only 40 are higher apprenticeships (typically Level 4, leading to an HNC). Since 2015, degree apprenticeships have promised to deliver an alternative to mounting student debt while acquiring the best combination of vocational and academic learning – win-win?

Britain’s biggest employers are already funding this route through the apprenticeship levy, yet in a desktop survey of 15 of Build UK’s biggest names only five made mention of degree apprenticeships on their careers page. Searching sites like LinkedIn, Indeed and the government apprenticeship website doesn’t make for better reading either.

This puts a somewhat different complexion on opportunity. Degree apprenticeship pathways, capacity among training providers and funding are all in place, yet industry employers do not appear to be offering opportunities in sufficient numbers.

When I advertise higher apprenticeships for construction management roles, I typically receive over 100 applications, with at least a dozen worthy of consideration for interview. The challenge isn’t how to make our industry more appealing to candidates but how to say no to bright and hopeful applicants.

As employers, we must do more to offer positions with meaningful training and progression opportunities, perhaps by adopting the aims of the 5% Club, to overturn a 40-year culture of non-investment in training coupled with risk transfer to individuals.

Paul Caunce is a board member of construction consultant Five Oceans and electrical contractor J Monks

Image: Skarie20/Dreamstime.com

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