Training: Could you benefit from apprenticeship training schemes?
The Natural Stone Industry Training Group (NSITG), leads training in the stone industry. Funded by CITB and supported by Stone Federation Great Britain, it invites the whole industry to engage with training the workforce. Anyone from the industry is enthusiastically welcomed to participate by contacting Claire Wallbridge (contact details in the box below). At its recent meeting, NSITG heard about a scheme for companies to take on apprentices for the duration of short-term projects.
Natural Stone Industry Group (NSITG) members heard at their latest meeting about a scheme for allowing companies to engage apprentices just for the duration of a project.
Steve Farrow of apprenticeship training agency (ATA) Evolve Apprentices told the group about the work of Evolve, which manages the CITB Shared Apprenticeship scheme and Flexi Job Apprenticeship Agency (FJAA) in London & the West Midlands.
Steve conceded that ATAs in general do not have a great reputation, but said they work well in construction because many construction projects do not last for the full two years of an apprenticeship. So Evolve employs the apprentices and takes responsibility for them and their college placings, and finding them projects to work with contractors for the duration of the project for their on-the-job development.
Steve said one of Evolve’s aims is to increase diversity in the construction industry.
‘Diversity’ is a term frequently used to encourage businesses to recruit and employ people from outside their traditional pool of labour. There has been a lot of research that shows there are considerable benefits to firms of widening the diversity of the people they employ. In construction, most people are male and white. Evolve is trying to broaden that demographic.
Steve said Evolve employs 50 apprentices in London and the West Midlands, and 67% of them do not describe themselves as ‘white British’. He admitted most are male, but not all of them, and said they cover a wide age range. He said 30% of Evolve’s staff are female.
Evolve has identified specialities where there are shortages of apprentices, which includes the stone industry, especially in the heritage sector and roofing.
A problem is that many companies operating in these sectors do not have projects lasting long enough to cover an apprenticeship and the companies are, therefore, reluctant to take on apprentices that they might not be able to keep fully employed for the duration of a two-year apprenticeship. Many specialist contractors also have relatively small workforces and are reluctant to lose any of them for the college training that apprenticeships require.
However, firms can find themselves obliged by Section 106 agreements to provide employment and skills initiatives if they want to win a tender, so Evolve’s solution is to employ the apprentices itself, taking away all the administration and responsibilities that it involves, including college places, and fit them into various projects as required.
If there is no job to move them on to, Evolve will continue to employ them until one becomes available, so that the apprenticeship continues. It also takes responsibility for them when they are attending college courses.
Steve said Evolve covers its costs of paying the apprentices, providing personal protective equipment (apart from site requirements such as hard hats), and its administration fees by charging host companies that offer the apprentices positions to cover the costs for the duration of the project.
Of course, a host company will want to be sure an apprentice will fit in with its team and the way it works, and work experience and trial periods can be arranged before a firm commits to taking on an apprentice. Placements are normally expected to last between three and 12 months.
It is a good way of introducing people to specialities and many of Evolve’s apprentices are recruited by the companies they are placed with before the end of their apprenticeships. “We’re happy about that,” said Steve.
For more information about Evolve go to evolveuk.org.