The future of the construction industry hangs in the balance following the government’s announcement on apprenticeship funding reforms, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).
In an announcement made on Tuesday (13th January), Skills Minister Nick Boles MP said that further detailed design work was needed into how the reforms could work.
The government published a consultation document in March 2014, The Future of Apprenticeships in England: Funding Reform Technical Consultation, seeking feedback on implementation of the principles underpinning the new funding model.
Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said the announcement offers no clarity or reassurance regarding the future of apprenticeship funding.
“Despite the business community – across many sectors – repeatedly warning government of the potential impact of their proposed reforms on the desire and ability of SMEs to train apprentices, we have been told that giving employers direct control of apprenticeship funding remains a non-negotiable part of the reforms,” said Berry.
“We have waited eight months for the government response to their Spring 2014 consultation and have today been presented with two sides of A4 which only serve to fuel our fears about the ability of SME construction firms to train apprentices. If SME firms – particularly micro-firms – are asked to pay for apprenticeship training up front it will have a negative impact on cash flow and increase levels of bureaucracy no matter how simple the system is.”
Berry has urged the government to think again and not to undermine the construction recovery which he believes is tentatively moving in the right direction but could be set off course if not enough new skilled workers enter the industry.
He added: “Indeed the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) predicts that 200,000 new roles will be created in our sector over the next five years and a key way to fill these roles will be via apprenticeships. To experiment with apprenticeship training at such a time and against the advice of large swathes of the business community is irresponsible and foolish.”