Investing in the future of construction

The subject of apprenticeships has risen to the forefront of political and media discussions, with politicians having promised various new incentives as part of their election pledges, ranging from free transport to reduced national insurance contributions for apprentices. The 2015 Budget also saw the announcement of a digital voucher scheme to start in 2017, which gives businesses greater control of apprenticeship funding.

However, there is still a long way to go if as an industry, we are going to be able to recruit all of the apprentices we need to fill the skills gap. The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) predicts that an additional 200,000 jobs will be created in the construction industry over the next five years and up to 400,000 people could retire over the same period. As part of the combination of measures needed to fill this skills gap, the CITB estimates the construction sector requires 120,000 apprentices over the next five years.

The skills shortage in the roofing and cladding industry runs across many levels and there are different types of apprenticeships needed throughout both contracting and manufacturing. For example, there is a real shortage of people with the right skills and qualifications to maintain production equipment. So, at Marley Eternit, we already offer electrical and mechanical engineering NVQ apprenticeships at several of our UK manufacturing facilities. This means we can train engineers to meet the needs of our business and support them with gaining the qualifications required through learning at college.

We are currently looking at expanding our apprenticeship scheme because it is crucial for the skilled elements of our manufacturing operation. These days the plants are so highly specialised that no amount of external experience can prepare potential new employees. The ideal situation is to grow and develop our own people into the very detailed and skilled roles essential to the operation of the facilities across the UK. As well as offering apprenticeships, Marley Eternit runs graduate training schemes and is also currently offering the opportunity for an undergraduate to undertake a one year paid placement at one of our manufacturing plants.

“Hands-on”
Brooke Kempson is an electrical engineering apprentice at Marley Eternit on a four-year programme. He said: “I joined the scheme straight from school and I’m now in my second year. I go to college on a Tuesday and then the rest of the time is on-the-job training.

“As an electrical apprentice, I’m involved in keeping the plant running and dealing with any electrical repairs and maintenance. I really enjoy it because it is very hands-on and the equipment here is very sophisticated, so I’m getting very good experience.

“My dad is a mechanical engineer and I grew up being really interested in engineering as a result of his job. The apprenticeship is giving me a really good opportunity to get the career in electrical engineering that I have always wanted.”

It is important that apprenticeship programmes are well planned, targeting the areas of need and providing the right skills to meet the gap. For example, Bracknell Roofing has recently launched a long-term apprenticeship programme designed to drive forward the development of the ‘roofers of the future’. The company has just seen the first two apprentices join its programme, with several more young people expected to join the two-year scheme by the end of the year. The company directly employs up to ten experienced roofing pers