The importance of backing apprenticeships

As the sector battles an unprecedented shortfall in skilled workers, Tom Dwyer, group production director at Keepmoat discusses how apprenticeships are being embraced to fill the current gap, which amounts to an 30,000 extra construction professionals needed by 2026.

I began my career in the housebuilding industry by enrolling on a bricklaying apprenticeship in 1979. As a bricklayer, it’s integral to have a keen eye for detail, and this is built upon in modern apprenticeship learning. When I was studying, it was a sink or swim type environment, and I learnt the power of proactivity and problem solving. I didn’t always have someone on hand to ask, so I had to be solutions driven and grow my independence.

Team work, communication and time management were also fantastic transferable skills that I first began to hone as an apprentice bricklayer. Working on site and having set deadlines to complete my portion of the work broadened my understanding of the bigger picture, and also led to my first leadership experiences. 

Ultimately, all these skills that were first practised as an apprentice are the bread and butter in my current role as production director at Keepmoat. Without having been able to build upon my independence, understanding of the wider working world and communication as an apprentice, my career would look very different.

Why is there a shortfall of skilled workers in the industry?

The construction industry has a notoriously ageing workforce, who are likely set to retire in the next five to 10 years. This, along with a dramatic fall in 16 to 30-year-olds entering the construction industry means there is a less agile and less digitally literate workforce, resulting in a need for skilled workers.

As a specialist in providing local employment opportunities and training to inspire careers in construction, Keepmoat is addressing the skills shortage head-on by educating young people on the exciting opportunities available via our school outreach and apprenticeship programmes.

The UK is also experiencing the ripples of an ageing population and the construction sector is set to see more skills leave the industry than any other area. By championing training and development and understanding that we have a clear responsibility to help deliver a sustainable future, apprenticeships prioritise hands-on education in a way that will inspire the next generation to choose a career in construction.

How can apprenticeships help reduce the shortfall of workers?

The construction industry needs a new generation of skilled workers to fill the skills gap and replace an ageing workforce. 

Apprenticeships can be a great solution to help reduce the shortfall, by providing hands-on training, helping individuals gain practical experience and valuable skills that are necessary for success in the workforce. 

Additionally, apprenticeships often offer a pathway to full-time employment, which can be especially beneficial for those who may not have pursued higher education or have had difficulty finding work in the past. Through apprenticeships, individuals can gain the necessary skills to become productive and valuable members of the workforce, helping to fill the current gap in the job market.

Apprentice Case Study 

Carla Wylie is a 28 year old single mother, who is currently undertaking her Level 4 site supervisor apprenticeship at Keepmoat’s Farington Mews in Leyland. Carla has always dreamed of working in construction, despite it being a traditionally male-dominated industry.

She started her training with Keepmoat by undertaking a one-month work experience placement to get a better understanding of the site manager role, as well as the housebuilding industry as a whole. 

During this placement, Carla spent some of her time working alongside the site management team, and this gave her an understanding of the responsibilities which are involved with working in site management, including an insight into the working day of a site manager.

Carla has tips for others looking to take up a similar role: ‘’My advice to anyone currently undertaking an apprenticeship, or thinking about it in the future, would be that every day is a school day. Listen, learn, and don’t be afraid to ask questions!” She continues: It’s important to have a positive attitude and to try to find solutions to problems that arise. Apprenticeships are a great way to earn whilst you learn, which has been essential for me so I can provide for my son.’’