Technician inspecting a young trainee at factory

Employers and unions have called for a rethink of the government’s apprenticeship policies after a 59 per cent fall in those taking up trainee posts.

The government’s flagship apprenticeship scheme – a five-year plan – was first announced in 2015, with the aim being to create an extra three million apprenticeship places by 2020. The plan was to supply trades and industries with the next generation of talent and people power, with funding being provided via a levy on big business.

But industries are now complaining that they have not seen any flow of trainees coming in to replace the outgoing generation. It has been revealed that, in fact, new apprenticeship starts have fallen a massive 59 per cent.

Between May and July just 48,000 people started an apprenticeship. In the same period last year that number was more than double at 117,000.

Insufficient careers advice

FTSE 250 construction and services giant Kier commissioned a report in September – against a backdrop of declining GCSE results – showing that parents had significant concerns about the quality of careers advice on offer to secondary school pupils.

With 74% of those surveyed feeling careers advice is too focused on academic pathways, and 68% of parents believing that children do not receive enough advice, the report pointed to a need for business and government to do more to improve out of date advice.

As the construction/built environment sector battles a fundamental image problem, with pupils and parents not appreciating the breadth of career opportunities on offer in the sector – as well as the industry needing to take on 400,000 new recruits per annum to keep pace with the UK’s growing housing and infrastructure demand – this is about averting a £90bn UK GDP crisis.

As part of the report, a study of 2,000 secondary school teachers, parents and careers advisors was undertaken to assess perceptions of careers advice and career options for school leavers, and specifically to gauge their understanding of construction and the built environment.

The study identified 90% of teachers across the UK are unaware of the scale of the recruitment shortfall in the construction sector, with 41% not realising there is an issue at all.

It also found that 54% of teachers and parents believe there is a lack of career progression in construction/the built environment, and associate the industry with being muddy, manual, male dominated and low paid thanks to outdated perceptions. This is even though the industry provides a wealth of opportunity across all skillsets.

In part, lack of knowledge is being compounded by a lack of detailed careers advice. The report found that over half of pupils (65%) aged 11-13 get no official advice and only a quarter of 13-15-year olds (27%) got ‘one hour, once’ of careers advice.

The report also found that 57% of parents say rising tuition fees put them off encouraging university as an option for their children, yet 81% of parents were unaware that major FTSE companies can pay the cost of a degree course and offer a guaranteed entry point into work upon completion of studies.

Pledge for ‘Career Ambassadors’

Given that the public sector faces continued budgetary pressures, schools and councils cannot provide timely, comprehensive and persuasive careers advice without support. With the backing of the Institute of Directors (IoD) and the Careers & Enterprise Company, Kier is pledging one per cent of its workforce as Career Ambassadors to work with schools and colleges over the next 12 months to engage with at least 10,000 school pupils, to inform and inspire the next generation.

Haydn Mursell, Chief Executive of Kier, said: “With an ageing workforce, uncertainty around Brexit and an ambitious pipeline of construction, housing and wider infrastructure projects, which equates to £90bn of UK GDP delivery and creates a demand for circa 400,000 new recruits per annum, it is imperative that we attract new talent into our industry.

“If every company in the FTSE 250 and FTSE 100 followed the 1% pledge as part of their commitment to employment and skills, we could create a powerful network of real world advisors, to inform and inspire the next generation.”

The report: ‘Averting a £90bn GDP crisis: A report on the image and recruitment crisis facing the built environment,’ is available from the Kier website: Or for more information on opportunities available in the industry, please visit: