Subcontractors under pressure to employ apprentices

Grant Prior 14 years ago
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Trade contractors could face increasing pressure to take on more apprentices as main contractors are urged to demand more trainees across their supply chain.

Leaders at ConstructionSkills want large construction companies to use their influence across the supply chain to stimulate a ‘spirit of apprenticeships’ among trade contractors.

But many subcontractors believe bigger firms should take the lead. One told the Enquirer: “Main contractors can’t tell us to take on more apprentices when they hardly employ any themselves.

“Only a handful of main contactors actually employ their own site people or have apprentices – the rest rely on subbies to get things built. It’s a bit rich for them to then turn round and tell us how to run things.”

ConstructionSkills research has revealed that almost a third of companies have slashed their apprenticeship recruitment plans this year because of the recession.

Stephen Ratcliffe, Director of the UK Contractors Group said: “It is extremely important that we work together to deliver the next generations of apprenticeships, and this is why the UKCG has recently established an apprenticeship task force to look at ways its members could work collectively with their supply chains to promote new entrant training.”

Mike Bialyj, Director of Employer Services at ConstructionSkills added: “There is a real need for more employers to take an apprentice on, but many of the smaller companies out there don’t feel that they have the capacity or time to do so. What we need is for smaller companies to understand the process of taking on an apprentice, what the businesses benefits are and how they can access help and support, both from us, and from larger companies.”

ConstructionSkills believe many large contractors already actively choose trade contractors that share their corporate values, working cultures and commitment to developing talent.

Carl Heslop, a special works manager and apprentice employer at Morgan Ashurst, said: “We need a robust supply chain and we’ve spent a lot of time developing ours to ensure that a wide range of different skills are covered by the firms we work with in order to produce the output we need. Apprentices are key to this and a very important part of our culture, so if companies want to work with us it’s essential for them to demonstrate that they share our values by taking on and developing apprentices.”

Mick Nelson, Works Manager at BAM Nuttall, said: “You’re not giving anything back by taking on an apprentice. You’re actually taking. Every company needs good people for it to prosper and you’re taking on a good young person, teaching them the skills that your company needs and the culture of the company. Unless you are investing in your future then it’s very hard to prosper.”

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