Construction apprenticeships: a small business guide

Instructor with apprentice on construction site working with tablet

Construction apprenticeships can help businesses find and train people passionate about exploring a career in the industry. From on the job training to government grants, here’s everything you need to know about taking on an apprentice.

Ongoing skills shortages in the construction industry

The shortage of skilled labour in the construction workforce has been an ongoing challenge for small businesses in recent years. Early retirement, the cost of living crisis, and supply shortages have pushed experienced workers out of the industry.

According to a report by On The Tools, the UK will need 927,000 new tradespeople by 2032 to combat this widening skills gap. And nearly quarter of a million (244,000) of these will need to be qualified apprentices.

What are the benefits of employing an apprentice?

There are many reasons why hiring a construction apprentice could be a positive step for your small business.

Benefits include:

  • you can teach people on the job – helping apprentices to develop skills unique to your small business
  • apprentices are often highly motivated with an appetite to learn and one eye on gaining long-term employment
  • you can give back to young people and the local community – this increases your chances of having a loyal and dedicated workforce

For more information, read our general guide to hiring an apprentice.

Funding for apprenticeships

Small businesses clearly need extra support and resources to be able to train apprentices, especially in the construction sector. Almost all (91 per cent) of former or current employers of apprentices in construction believe the industry needs more funding to train young people.

Government funding for apprenticeships

From the start of April, you will now be able to access government funding for apprenticeships. This will cover the full cost of training and assessing apprentices if they’re 21 or younger, in any industry. The government is putting in £60 million to boost the number of apprenticeships available in the UK, estimating that it will lead to 20,000 new positions.

Previously, businesses needed to pay five per cent, and the government would pay the remaining 95 per cent directly to the training provider.

CITB apprenticeships

There’s also industry specific help and support available for construction businesses looking to hire apprentices. The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) improves skills development in the industry and links businesses with young people.

The CITB has also launched a New Entrant Employer Support Team to help small businesses understand the complex process of hiring an apprentice. They’ll help construction businesses in England to find talent, relevant training, and grants.

You can email the team for more information: [email protected].

Other resources and support for employers looking to hire apprentices include:

  • Talentview – a free platform specifically for construction apprenticeships, this site lets you promote your apprenticeships and training opportunities
  • resources from the government at apprenticeships.gov.uk
  • Go Construct – a jobs board for construction apprenticeships and jobs

Are there grants for hiring an apprentice?

You may be able to apply for a grant for hiring an apprentice if you’re registered with the CITB.

Grants available include:

  • £2,500 a year for attendance and £3,000 a year for achievement
  • additional £2,000 for drylining apprentices

You might be able to get an additional £1,000 to pay for other costs when your apprentice is in the workplace if they’re:

  • 16 to 18 years old
  • 19 to 25 years old with an education, health, and care plan
  • 19 to 25 years old and they used to be in care

Find out more about funding for apprenticeships.

Apprenticeship Levy reform

The Apprenticeship Levy was introduced to help fund new apprenticeship schemes and grow the workforce.

However, industry groups, training providers, and organisations have been calling for a reform of the apprenticeship levy and that it’s not as effective as it should be. In fact, less than 20 per cent of construction employers surveyed by On The Tools knew the levy existed. This comes as research from City & Guilds finds that employers have spent only 55.5 per cent of their levy funding in the last five years, on average.

The government has increased the amount of funding that employers paying the Apprenticeship Levy – those with an annual pay bill of more than £3 million – can pass onto other businesses. A levy paying employer used to only be able to transfer 25 per cent of their unused levy. Now they can transfer up to 50 per cent of their funds to help other businesses to train apprentices.

You can use the government website to find out if you have to pay the Apprenticeship Levy and check the criteria.

Make the most of National Apprenticeship Week

Every February there’s a National Apprenticeship Week, when attention turns to the positive impact apprenticeships can have for young people and businesses.

Throughout the week there will be lots of events that give you the opportunity to learn how other businesses make the most of apprenticeships.

Types of construction apprenticeships

There are four types of construction apprenticeships, from intermediate and advanced to higher and degree level.

When it comes to roles available, apprenticeships can include:

  • quantity surveyor
  • architect
  • bricklayer
  • carpenters
  • dryliner
  • groundworker
  • joiner

Other ways to address construction skills shortage

Changes to the UK skills shortage occupation list mean it may now be easier for trades businesses to hire overseas workers.

The government has approved five additional trades on the list to help businesses recruit for roles they’re struggling to fill:

This means people may be able to apply for a UK working visa more easily in these areas as they can apply for a skilled worker visa.

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Photograph: goodluz/stock.adobe.com

Catriona Smith

Catriona Smith is a content and marketing professional with 12 years’ experience across the financial services, higher education, and insurance sectors. She’s also a trained NCTJ Gold Standard journalist. As a Senior Copywriter at Simply Business, Catriona has in-depth knowledge of small business concerns and specialises in tax, marketing, and business operations. Catriona lives in the seaside city of Brighton where she’s also a freelance yoga teacher.

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