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Addressing skills shortages in the trades

Certain trades in construction are suffering from a lack of new workers entering the field. We are working with federations and trade associations, colleges and employers to try out new ways to get more college leavers ready to enter those professions.

The challenge facing industry

There has been a sharp drop in the number of college leavers entering the construction industry, particularly in certain trades and the homebuilding sector.

While there are many new learners at college learning these trades, most of them don’t end up in those professions after their studies. For example, only 19% of college leavers who did a painting and decorating course go on to work in construction. The main reasons for this are:

  • many of them aren’t prepared for the world of work. Employers as a result, are reluctant to take them on as they can’t be relied upon on site.
  • many of them don’t get onsite practical experience during their studies. Consequently, they don’t have the skills to work independently on site.
  • the quality of training they get and assessment they undergo are variable. While they have qualifications on paper, it doesn’t always translate into good quality technical skills on the job.
  • they aren’t equipped to be self-employed so early on in their careers. They therefore can’t compete for construction projects in the same way as experienced self-employed tradespeople.
  • there isn’t a continuing professional development (CPD) programme which lets them keep up their skills or get skills with new materials that are being introduced into the industry.

What is being done to overcome the challenge?

We are trialling new ways to get learners ready for work with two pilots – one for the painting and decorating trade, and another for bricklaying. We are working with employers and colleges on these pilots, supported by the federations and trade associations for those trades. The pilots will be in selected regions, and if successful could be rolled out to more regions in Great Britain.

Painting and decorating pilot

This pilot aims to get learners, selected from participating colleges, paired up with an employer for a 2-week onsite work experience. This will give them:

  • a taste of what it is like to work full-time as a painter/decorator
  • a chance to get the type of onsite skills that employers are looking for in new recruits
  • a CSCS trainee card and NVQ registration.

Employers who participate in the pilot will:

  • receive £200 for the 2-week work experience
  • get ‘first dibs’ on a promising new painter/decorator for their business at the end of their work experience
  • get an additional CITB grant payment of £160 per week for up to 24 weeks.
    This payment is to support the hiring and ongoing training of these new recruits as they work towards getting their NVQ.
    For an employer to get this additional payment, their trainee must work a minimum of 35 hours a week.

The pilot will initially be available to employers and selected colleges in London and south Midlands. This pilot will start in May 2019 and run till late April 2020.

Bricklaying pilot

The bricklaying pilot has similar aims to the painting and decorating pilot, that is get learners ready for the world of work. The approach however is different. In this pilot, colleges nominate learners in the top 20% of their class for an extended curriculum. This curriculum will combine:

  • on-the-job work experience, and
  • additional practical lessons to develop the learner’s trowel skills.
    This training has been specified by the industry to make sure that a learner comes away with the trowel skills needed in a job.

Selected learners will be paired up with an employer for their work experience.

By the end of the programme, they should:

  • have learned how to lay bricks with better accuracy and dexterity, and be more productive
  • be ready for the world of work from the ‘get-go’ so that they’re attractive to employers looking to hire new bricklayers
  • have learned the necessary ‘soft’ skills to work independently as well as part of a team
  • have some understanding of what it takes to become a self-employed bricklayer.

Participating employers will give the learner they’re paired up with onsite work experience. At the end of the programme, the employer is expected take on the learner as a full-time employee for 6 months. During this time, the learner should be applying what they’ve learnt in the extended curriculum on the job.

In exchange for ‘sponsoring’ this high-performing learner throughout the pilot, the employer will be eligible for:

  • a small financial contribution towards the days a learner spends on work experience
  • substantial financial support for taking on the learner as an employee for up to 24 weeks.

The pilot started in April 2019 and is running with employers and selected colleges in Liverpool and Warwickshire. The pilot will run until December 2019.

For more information about the bricklaying pilot, contact  or .