The human impact of any business failure is always the most devastating, but never more so than when those just starting their careers lose their jobs. Of the 1,200 apprentices with the stricken construction giant Carillion, nearly 900 have received alternate offers of employment. Unfortunately, more than 300 received their notice of redundancy at the beginning of this month
After the company went into liquidation in January, the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) sought to find alternative placements for all of the 1,200 Carillion apprentices. Its inability to do so as a time when the construction sector is experiencing a skills crisis has been called an act of ‘crass stupidity’ by the union Unite. It suggested that the government should have used all its procurement power to keep the apprentices in work.
Those in the North are worst affected
Positive outcomes were reached for the majority of former Carillion apprentices, with 777 placed in new jobs in England and 101 in Scotland, while 12 returned to full-time education. Of the 341 apprentices who have been given their notice and will receive no pay after August, the greatest number were based in the North East and North West of England. Unfortunately, the training body CITB was unable to find apprenticeships with other firms.
That brings the total number of redundancies resulting from the failure of Carillion’s demise to 2,778, with 13,516 jobs saved, 1,277 employees choosing to leave the business and more than 650 employees being retained on public and private sector contracts.
The vital role of construction apprenticeships
While the apprentices at Carillion were let down by the corporate greed and mismanagement of executives, they still have a crucial role to play in the construction industry as a whole. Apprentices are essential to developing a skilled workforce and ensuring those with the necessary expertise for managerial, technical and supervisory roles keep coming through.
Construction apprenticeship numbers fell following the credit crunch and with the industry complaining of an ageing workforce, this is clearly something that has to change. City & Guilds has revealed that 87% of employers struggled to get hold of the skilled workers they needed last year, while 3-in-10 British-born construction workers are more than 50 years old.
The government set an ambitious target to have three million apprentices across all sectors by 2020. With construction accounting for around 7% of GDP, that should lead to approximately 42,000 new construction apprentices every year.
However, in 2016/17, there were just 21,000 apprentices in construction placements, with the now redundant Carillion apprentices accounting for 1.6% of that number. To make matters worse, new apprenticeships starting between August 2017 and March 2018 fell by 28%, which could be extremely problematic if that trend were to continue.
New high-quality apprenticeships to begin
In June 2018, a scheme to introduce new, higher-quality apprenticeships for bricklayers and plasterers was signed off by the government. It is hoped these apprenticeships will help to solve the skills crisis at construction’s core. In 2019, two new apprenticeship routes will also begin. That includes a level 6 architectural assistant apprenticeship and a level 7 architect qualification.
Despite the appalling way apprentices have been treated by Carillion, this level of investment shows that the future of apprentices in the construction industry remains positive. Karen Jones, group HR director at Redrow, said: “Apprenticeships are a way of futureproofing the UK workforce, particularly in the sectors where there is a skills shortage, such as construction, so it is pleasing to see that progress is being made”.
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