FMB reports small firms “Put off” hiring apprentices because of the red tape

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Small construction firms are being put off hiring apprentices because of the red tape they believe is involved, despite the fact that the majority want to launch their own on-the-job training schemes.

According to research carried out by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), 94% of small building companies say they want to train up apprentices.

But the findings, which have been published in a report called Defusing The Skills Time Bomb, show that a third are deterred from taking on apprentices because of the bureaucracy they think comes with them.

Steve Radley, Director of Policy at CITB, attended yesterday’s roundtable event and said: “Small firms deliver most of the apprenticeships in construction and we need to get right behind them if we are to grow their numbers.

“It is no surprise to see bureaucracy as the main barrier to taking on apprentices and we need to work hard with government to keep the system as simple as possible. But FMB’s research also shows that we need to do more to explain to employers how to go about it and to make them aware of the support that’s available. We will be working closely with FMB to address this.”

In August this year, FMB members in England were asked to participate in an online survey to find out what the main barriers to apprentice recruitment are.

The results have now been published as a list of “fear factors” in the new report, which also includes the cost of employing and training an apprentice and the uncertainty of future workloads.

Concerns over the ability of companies to retain apprentices and the quality of candidates completed the list of the top five most common factors.

Calls are now being made for more information to be provided to employers to ensure they know about all the support available to them when it comes to hiring trainees.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “There is strong evidence to show that small construction firms need better information and that if they were more aware of the support that’s available, a great number would train apprentices.”

He went on to point out that just under 80% of non-recruiters are not aware of even the most important grant they could be eligible to apply for.

The report also makes recommendations for the Government to help drive up the number of apprentices.

These include integrating the proposed apprenticeship levy with the existing construction industry levy and ensuring that the new digital apprenticeship vouchers are as simple to use as possible.

Writing together with the FMB’s national president Dave Bentley in the report’s foreword, Mr Berry says that the country will struggle to meet its needs unless more apprenticeships in construction are created.

“Without more construction apprentices, we won’t be able to deliver the new and refurbished homes, schools, hospitals, energy and transport infrastructure which our society so desperately needs,” he says.