05 - 07 March 2024 | ExCeL, London

05 - 07 March 2024 | ExCeL, London

Opinion Piece

Creating a sustainable skilled workforce for the future requires commitment from the Government

An opinion by Dr David Moore, CEO, British Constructional Steelwork Association (BCSA)

As a national Trade Association, we were more than happy to get involved in the Government apprenticeship standards development as our industry has struggled for years to get access to the right training that is relevant to our industry.

The simple explanation to the lack of take up of apprenticeships, is due to the constraints when being developed. Despite the Government saying that the standards are ‘employer led’, in reality they were not as the Government practically dictated what was to be included in the standards and the constant policy changes, meant that the employer could not keep up.

Although both level 2 and 3 standards were developed for lots of professional skills, the Government invented a system of associating funding for each one, which was so complex and time consuming to work out that employers didn’t have the time or resources to do this with any quality. Instead, the Government decided on the funding against each standard.

Here are some examples of the current state of funding:

  • Structural Steelwork fabricator Level 2 = £5,000
  • Metal Fabricator Level 3 = £27,000
  • Structural Steelwork Erector Level 2 = £9,000
  • Construction Rigger Erector Level 3 = £18,000
  • General Welder Level 2 = £9,000
  • Plate or Pipe Welder Level 3 = £27,000

This is a small indication of the problem. If a training provider has invested in resources and facilities (which can be significant) to train apprentices, often they will only offer level 3, as the level 2 funding doesn’t cover the basic cost of training.

A change needs to be made, to make the level 2 apprenticeships attractive so we can invest in a sustainable skilled workforce. The structural steelwork industry needs level 2 apprenticeships to attract new employees from schools. Level 3 is too high for our needs and more suited to those wishing to work in Engineering Construction.

“Recent national newspaper articles reveal the shocking reality that the apprenticeship system is a thinly disguised additional tax on employers.  The Treasury has reportedly pocketed around £750 million raised by the apprenticeship levy, instead of it being spent on the training that industry needs (and has paid for). Some £3.2 billion was raised via the levy in the year ending April 2022 but just £2.45 billion was spent. Over the past 5 years the treasury has taken £4.4 billion from unspent levy funds”.

Employers have consistently asked for the levy funds to be made available for ‘upskilling’ existing employees or for in-house training that can develop employees in the workplace into new roles, but unfortunately the unspent levy cash has been syphoned away into the Treasury and some MP’s want the Apprenticeship Levy to be rolled out to the SME’s so they can bring in more money to the Government.

The latest publication on this is in the link below: https://feweek.co.uk/1-in-10-established-apprenticeships-fail-to-recruit/

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