Apprenticeship starts are falling because of the Apprenticeship Levy which needs to be made more flexible, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).
The FMB’s reaction is in response to statistics published today by the Department for Education, which show that there has been a 24% fall in apprenticeship starts for the 2017/18 academic year compared with the previous academic year.
Commenting on the figures, Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “Apprenticeships are falling and the Government must take urgent action to reverse the decline. At the recent Conservative Party Conference, the Government announced much-needed reforms to the Apprenticeship Levy but these do not go far enough. From April 2019, large firms will be allowed to pass 25 per cent of Levy vouchers down through the supply chain to smaller firms but the FMB is calling for this to be increased to 100 per cent. This is an important change because in construction, it’s the smaller firms that train more than two thirds of all apprentices. Conversely, large firms don’t tend to directly employ or train tradespeople. If the Government is serious about creating three million quality apprenticeships by 2020, it must ensure the Apprenticeship Levy works for the construction industry.”
Berry concluded: “These alarming apprenticeship figures come hot on the heels of the recently published Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) report, which outlined some worrying recommendations for the UK’s post-Brexit immigration system. The Government’s initial reaction was to accept the MAC report’s recommendations. This is deeply concerning as the report suggests that the supply of ‘low-skilled’ migrant workers should be severely limited. The construction industry relies heavily on low skilled workers, such as labourers, who are essential to any construction site. What’s more, Level 2 tradespeople, such as bricklayers and carpenters, will be deemed low skilled and therefore severely limited in number. This is unwise given the construction skills shortage and insulting given the amount of knowledge and skills these individuals possess. New figures show that there were 2.25 million EU nationals working in the UK in from July to September 2018, 132,000 fewer than one year earlier – that’s the steepest fall on record. It is therefore even more vital that the Government listens to the industry and reforms the Apprenticeship Levy before it is too late. We need to be training more UK-born apprentices to reduce future reliance on migrant workers from Europe or else the construction sector will grind to a halt. We need tens of thousands more apprentices and tens of thousands of migrant construction workers – of all skill levels.”