Until March 2021, and as part of their mission to support job creation during this uncertain time, the Government is offering an incentive payment of between £1,500 and £2,000 to any business taking on an apprentice. This in on top of the standard £1,000 grant that employers receive when hiring an apprentice between the ages of 16-18, or a 19-24-year-old apprentice with an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan. This means that it is now a great time for builders to explore and enhance their relationship with their local college.

Too often, builders and local colleges work in isolation from one another, each busy with their own responsibilities. However, the ambitions of colleges and the needs of local builders are extremely similar: colleges want to supply construction businesses with employable apprentices. Businesses want to employ high-quality tradespeople to support their work.

Collaboration is key to improving the apprenticeship system, and to making it work for everyone.

The FMB spoke to South and City College Birmingham (SCCB) about how builders can best work with their local college and the work colleges are offering and undertaking to support businesses throughout the country.

Recruitment – Colleges provide job ready individuals to fill recruitment needs. They work in partnership with organisations and government departments to design pre-employment training programmes to meet your needs, candidates are recruited to these programmes and receive the skills and qualifications to ensure they hit the ground running.  SCCB are running the Construction Gateway Programme to support individuals entering construction roles across the city; candidates receive qualifications in plant, ground works and a CSCS card as dictated by the employer.

Training Talent – Colleges have access to many young people on vocational programmes seeking businesses to join on completion of their studies. SCCB have over 1,500 students in construction related studies who are being trained to be your workforce of the future. Why not engage with your local college to offer work experience to these students to build your workforce?

Succession Planning – Colleges also work with organisations to offer apprenticeship solutions to current or future skills gaps.  Apprenticeships are a fantastic way to grow your own talent with the support of a college providing specialist training and ongoing pastoral support.  With many apprenticeships now available to degree level, there are progression opportunities to support staff in gaining higher-level skills.  SCCB offer a free recruitment service for apprentices, reducing the administrative burden, and account managers to work alongside employers throughout the journey. SCCB currently have over 500 construction apprentices between level 2 and level 5.

Continuous Professional Development (CPD) – Colleges offer a wide range of upskilling opportunities for your workforce, to ensure they are up to date with current ways of working and ready for new technologies. Apprenticeship funding is also available to upskill your current workforce, making this a cost-effective way to progress your employees.  SCCB works closely with the West Midlands Combined Authority and can apply for flexibilities in adult funding for programmes that are not usually funded to support staff to progress, most recently being awarded 50% funding for NVQ’s in construction management at level’s 4 and 5.

Future Proofing – With the introduction of T Levels, many colleges are forming and strengthening industry boards. This allows employers to inform the design and delivery of curriculum to ensure that students are being taught the techniques and skills needed to meet current and future skills requirements. By engaging with colleges in this area, organisations can influence the skills and qualifications of their future workforce.

To begin dialogue with your local college, you should contact the college’s Business or Employer Services Team, or your college’s Construction Department.

To find more information on apprenticeships and how your business could benefit, take a look at the FMB’s Ultimate Guide to Apprenticeships throughout the UK.

The FMB are consistently advocating for enhancements to the training and skills environment our members operate within. Our ‘Trading Up’ Report, for instance, made several recommendations that seek to do so. These range from funding for a dedicated Industry Liaison Officer for colleges, through to leveraging the National Skills Fund to provide funding to turbocharge upskilling in strategic construction occupations.

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