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Paul Caunce urges fellow employers to do more for construction
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
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
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