Facebook Pixel
Skip to content

Apprenticeships: the heart of addressing skills demand

I’m a big fan of apprenticeships.

Earning while learning is a great way to start working life.

I know, because when I became an apprentice gas service engineer in the early 1980s, it changed my life.

My skills and horizons broadened, it led to some marvellous opportunities.

CITB has just published a research paper on the life-changing power of apprenticeships, Construction apprenticeships: Challenges. Opportunities. Support (PDF 2.34MB).

This paper will, I hope, benefit employers, particularly small to medium size enterprises (SMEs).

It comes at a time when apprenticeships are in the spotlight.

In addition, our New Entrant Employer Support Team will begin vital work across England in March.

I’ll look at our new report first, then take you through our plans for apprenticeships in the short and long term.


The key message I’ve taken from our report is on apprenticeship take-up.

Small companies, of two – nine employees, represent 79% of the construction industry.

However, just 18% of them employ apprentices.

Clearly this must change because these companies are key to unlocking increases in the number of people starting apprenticeships.

One reason the take-up figure is low is because every small and medium-sized enterprise or (SME) as they are called is unique, one size doesn’t fit all.

The task of helping SMEs is made greater by regional differences. There can be a gulf between needs nationally and locally and how to address them.

That’s one reason why I’m excited by our £800K employer network pilot launched last August. It puts employers in the driving seat on local training provision.

I’d like to emphasise two points on hiring apprentices.

Firstly, the benefits of employing fresh talent, then the support CITB offers.


Apprentices advantage businesses in numerous ways.

They are a cost-effective way to recruit staff.

They offer fresh talent for the workforce.

There’s the potential of improved productivity and diversity in the construction industry.

Take apprentice painter and decorator Courtney Maddison, a new construction recruit who ticks all the boxes.

“As a female and a member of the LGBTQ+ community,” says Courtney, 21, “it was difficult getting an apprenticeship in the trade. This made me debate and question my career goals.”

Fortunately, Courtney, a SkillBuild 2022 finalist, persevered. She found a sense of community and an excellent job opportunity.

I hope you read Courtney’s story. In it she speaks of how her employer, Samantha Murphy, owner of SMart Design, made Courtney feel like an equal and “not just a young apprentice”.

This example – along with new case studies on our Onsite Experience Hub video playlist - show the benefits of construction apprenticeships.


My second key point on apprenticeships is the support CITB offers employers.

Our Business Plan 2022-23, published in May, set out our aims to increase apprenticeships and skills in the construction industry.

During NAW and SAW this work will progress and align with Government campaigns.

The theme of NAW, for example, is #SkillsForLife; SAW’s theme is #UnlockingPotential.

Both hashtags reflect our aims. They’re what CITB is all about.

In terms of support, I hope you can take a look at our popular and comprehensive Employers’ Guide to Apprenticeships toolkit.

It has all the information construction businesses across England, Scotland and Wales need on recruitment, including links to the financial support we offer.

Our new Business Plan, to be published in Spring, will have more news on our work on apprenticeships in 2023-24.

It will include details on our plans to collaborate with Welsh and Scottish Governments and influence apprenticeships, on industry’s behalf, in both nations.

In the meantime, I’m genuinely looking forward to the impact and value our New Entrant Employer Support Team will bring to industry.

New entrants

Small businesses can find the process of hiring an apprentice complex and time-consuming.

The mission of our New Entrant Employer Support Team is to make the process easier.

The team’s work will see them provide the support companies in England need: from sourcing an applicant, funding their training, finding a suitable training provider/college and accessing grants.

Employers will be assigned a dedicated local advisor.

They will take the hassle away, giving them the support they require. You can contact the team here: newentrant.team@citb.co.uk.


There’s a lot happening and much planned for what will be a challenging year for construction and the UK economy.

I hope our new paper and work on apprenticeships is helpful.

Apprenticeships are vital to industry’s future. A hard-working apprentice is an asset to any business.

I’m certainly grateful for the life-changing opportunities my apprenticeship gave me.

If you would like to share your views, please get in touch via ceo@citb.co.uk.

Applicants can enrol for SkillBuild 2023, “construction’s Olympics”, here.