Skills development in construction

National Apprenticeship Week at South Devon College

National Apprenticeship Week at South Devon College - Credit: South Devon College

This week it’s National Apprenticeship Week.

The week is designed to celebrate the apprenticeship community, promote the benefits of apprenticeships, and showcase the resilience of apprentices and employers during the pandemic.

This year’s theme is Build the Future: Train, Retain and Achieve.

I’ve taken this as an opportunity to think about the contribution of apprenticeships to the construction industry – such an important sector for us in Torbay, with a widely reported skills gap.

It has also been reported that construction businesses in the South West have a lower propensity to train their staff than the national industry standard.

The industry has an important role to play in the recovery of our economy, with the potential to support more apprenticeships, which could potentially help people back into work whilst continuing to develop their skills.

Apprenticeships are such a valuable qualification in that they allow the individual to work while developing the specific skills required in the workplace.

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In construction, apprenticeships can be pursued by new, perhaps younger recruits, who will generally work four days a week and then attend college to complete their studies for one day a week - the structure of study does vary across some apprenticeship programmes.

But they are also a brilliant way to invest in an existing workforce to increase skills and also to increase job satisfaction and loyalty.

Higher and degree apprenticeships offer a pathway for those with existing qualifications into site management, civil and coastal engineering, as well as careers in sustainable construction – all growth areas and exciting opportunities for employees working in construction. 

For employers, this provides the chance to set staff on a journey to a well-paid career in the industry, as well as developing a loyal and skilled workforce to support growth. 

In January, the Government released a whitepaper by the Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson in partnership with the Department for Education, titled 'Skills for Jobs: Lifelong Learning ​for Opportunity & Growth'​.

The publication sets the direction of travel for skills development and the growing role for further education in delivering vocational and technical training so much needed in industry if the economy is to recover quickly.

The whitepaper puts employers at the heart of regeneration and calls for strong partnerships between employers and colleges, to ensure that education is aligned to skills gaps.

This is something we already pride ourselves on at the college, delivering flexible and curriculum developed in line with the needs of your business, to support you and your team every step of the way.