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CONSTRUCTIONSKILL Sustainability – Apprentices Are Vital To Sustain The Future Of Your Business

Mike Bialyj, Employer Services Director of ConstructionSkills, on how creating a sustainable future starts with apprentices.

Sustainability has long been considered a niche sector of the construction industry but as we emerge from one of the hardest recessions the industry has known, businesses that can embrace the low carbon agenda could be in for high rewards.

The Government has set a 2050 target of cutting emissions by 80%. Considering the construction industry as a whole accounts for 47% of all UK carbon emissions this creates huge opportunities for companies of all sizes. Our 25 million existing homes alone account for 27% of UK carbon emissions and to meet 2020 retrofit targets of seven million houses will cost between £50bn and £150bn. However, for firms to seize the opportunities that the growth in low carbon construction will present, they also need to make sure they are creating a workforce with a sustainable skillset.

Apprentices are the key to improving construction’s business and environmental sustainability. ConstructionSkills, as the largest apprentice trainer in the UK, is making sure that its apprentice training schemes, leave the participants aware and excited about the low carbon future of construction and ready to make that vital contribution to the sustainability of the industry.

We recently organised a webinar hosted by Construction News, where representatives from major construction firms, BAM Nuttall, Morgan Ashurst and Willmott Dixon discussed how good apprentices were for business – in the short and long term.

Mark Gelder, of Willmott Dixon, knows apprentices are vital in making sure his business is ready for future challenges. Throughout the webinar he emphasised that young people often have a different mindset to the older generation and are more environmentally friendly, and so apprentices are vital to help challenge the perceptions of the existing workforce. He stated that by focusing on the environment, apprentices will help the firm to win business and evolve in a sustainable manner as a business.

It is encouraging that these large contractors continue to recognise and value the contribution that apprentices make to their future success, despite the huge challenges that the downturn has presented. However, recent research undertaken by ConstructionSkills shows that nearly a third (31%) of contractors will not take on an apprentice at the moment as a result of the recession.

Apprentices are the future of our industry and it is important that figures such as this are a ‘blip’ and not a trend, to avoid losing talented people from the industry forever.

With large contractors recognising the importance of apprenticeships and training, it is vital they use their influence on their supply chains to ensure that new talent is encouraged into the industry.

Carl Heslop, special works manager and apprentice employer at national construction firm Morgan Ashurst, also gave some insight into the importance of stimulating apprenticeship activity in the supply chain. He said that if companies want to work with Morgan Ashurst they need to share the same values, the same skills and be a sustainable resource. Carl believes that the only way their supply chain can achieve the level of service required and be as sustainable as Morgan Ashurst, is to also take on apprentices. It is part of the culture at the firm and something Morgan Ashurst insists on as a pre-requisite for their supply chain.

For companies to remain sustainable and competitive, high standards of apprenticeships need to be delivered. They are still the preferred route into construction for many young entrants and we need to recognise this and find ways to encourage employers to take apprentices on young people to enter the industry.

Our aim is to make sure that the industry has the appropriate, high-calibre apprentices needed to compete in the future including providing the skills businesses need in preparation for the low carbon future of construction.

We call on construction firms to work with us to take on apprentices and bring in the people in who will be the mainstay of your team now and in the future. We know because we see it all the time - apprentices are good for business.


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