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Construction summit focuses on future of apprenticeship training

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (the Institute) welcomed around 150 representatives of large and small employers to its first digital construction summit.

This allowed everyone to take a wide-ranging look at the skills needs of the sector, how they are being served by current apprenticeships, and how this can be improved upon.

The summit will pre-empt the revision of apprenticeship standards across the occupational route and a review of how opportunities for progression are set out in the occupational map.

There are currently 88 apprenticeships approved for use for the construction occupational route – which covers everything from electricians, plasterers, roofers, bricklayers, landscape technicians and construction supervisors, to tilers, gas engineers and architects.

Jennifer Coupland, chief executive of the Institute, said: “I would like to thank the many people who took time out to attend this summit. It has never been more important to keep up to date with changing sector needs, taking into account the impact of COVID-19, increasing use of technology, sustainability, and the health and safety legacy of the Grenfell tragedy. This event provided a fantastic opportunity to bring the sector together to encourage debate and build consensus about the way forward for construction apprenticeships.”

Andrew Eldred, who represented the Construction Leadership Council and is director of employment and skills for the Electrical Contractors’ Association, delivered a talk about building safety, qualifications and sector competence.

He said afterwards: “Construction and engineering services employers – most of whom are small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) – will have an essential role to play in leading the bounce back in apprenticeship recruitment. The Institute’s construction summit therefore came at just the right time. It gave us a chance to consider what other measures we need from the Institute and government to underpin high quality apprenticeships and careers in the built environment, and how we can contribute to the forthcoming review of apprenticeship standards and the occupational map.”

Construction was highlighted by the government as a priority sector for supporting recovery from COVID-19 in the recent Skills For Jobs white paper.

Around 68,000 people have started on employer-led apprenticeship standards for the construction route since they launched in 2015. Starts this year are down around 10% compared with last year, following sector struggles with three national lockdowns, and there is now renewed focus on encouraging employers of all sizes to recruit new trainees.

Construction was an early adopter of employer-led apprenticeships but the sector has seen a lot of change and it is time for a refresh. The summit will be the first step in that journey.