Archive 2016 10

5 Roundtable ROUNDTABLE Richard Beresford is the chief executive of the National Federation of Builders Fran Stott is head of HR at property developer Story Homes Ben Brocklesby is the sales and marketing director at Origin Mark Robinson is the chief executive of Scape Group The Government will introduce a levy in April 2017 which requires all UK employers with an annual pay bill of more than £3 million to make an investment in apprenticeships. Funding will be graded across 15 apprenticeship value bands, ranging from £1,500 to £27,000 per apprentice, so will the construction industry benefit from the Apprenticeship Levy? Richard Beresford “The apprenticeship levy will mark a change in how apprenticeships are funded and how businesses will secure their training. “If your apprenticeship costs more than the value of the band in which it is placed, the employer will have to pay the difference. The most serious effect on construction companies will be from the level of funding available for apprenticeship training. Estimates put the funding shortfall at around 30 per cent. “No-one is arguing that increasing the number of apprenticeships is a bad idea. With uncertainty over the long-term availability of European workers, we are perhaps already too late in ramping up efforts to nurture homegrown talent. “The apprenticeship levy could provide a much-needed boost for all industry, and construction in particular with its ageing population. The slow drip-feeding of information on how such a transformational scheme will work gives businesses very little time to prepare for the April 2017 launch. Fran Stott “When it comes to apprenticeships, it’s important to note that a one-size-fits-all approach won’t remedy the shortage of skilled individuals entering the construction industry. “It’s encouraging to see that this is being reviewed, with the Government’s proposal of graded funding levels, but employer-led standards must remain at the core of this if apprenticeships are to continue to benefit the business community. “According to the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), only one per cent of companies will need to pay the levy, but it will impact construction companies and developers of all sizes. “What is still unclear, however, is how this levy will help smaller businesses which don’t meet the current payroll threshold. Indeed, it could even lead to the scenario where funding is cut for apprentices by up to 30 per cent – something we don’t want to see happen.” Ben Brocklesby “When George Osborne unveiled plans to introduce an Apprenticeship Levy, it divided opinion. Some business leaders came out in support, but many claimed it was unworkable and would have severe repercussions for UK businesses. “Even before the levy was announced, Origin had a constant stream of apprentices in its installation team. We have always been keen advocates for investing in the future and providing young people with opportunities to try their hand in the industry. Currently, installation is the main area of focus, but the introduction of the levy could open up more avenues, in different roles and departments, which is a really exciting prospect. “That being said, currently there is only one provider offering fenestration specific apprenticeships. At this stage, these aren’t funded by the government. As of April 2017, when the Levy is introduced, we hope to be able to use vouchers to pay for this training, which could be of huge benefit to the business. “Our opinion is that the levy will push the construction industry forwards, bringing people with different skillsets, expertise and passions into the sector. With more funding options available and more apprenticeship courses being organised, we are filled with excitement for what the future holds.” Mark Robinson “The construction industry is in the midst of a skills shortage that is not only impacting the quality of built environment projects but the ability to deliver within budget. “According to our recent research on sustainability in the supply chain, the skills shortage is negatively affecting project quality according to 85 per cent of public sector respondents we surveyed. “Therefore it is now more important than ever that we are attracting the next generation of construction leaders to help us bridge this gap and get Britain building at the rate needed. “Creating more apprenticeships, and correctly positioning their benefits, is crucial to this. Many construction companies will indeed welcome the intention behind the Apprenticeship Levy in this regard, however the execution of the policy may not have the desired effect. “Large employers in the industry may not be prepared to pay both the Apprenticeship Levy and make contributions to training and apprenticeships via the CITB Levy and Grants Scheme, resulting in some withdrawing their support for the latter. This would have a detrimental impact on training in the sector and would be a step in the wrong direction for the industry as a whole. Last year the CITB Levy and Grants Scheme supported 18,500 apprenticeships. “With a 30 per cent reduction in funding by the Skills Funding Agency for apprenticeships targeted at those aged between 16-18 years coming into effect from April next year, employers will also be paying substantially more for these. The result of all this is that the Apprenticeship Levy may not have the intended impact on the skills shortage, nor at the rate required.” n

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