Posted by

Neil Robertson, Business Development Manager at Keepmoat

27 Oct 2015

Every year, a series of events are held around the political party conferences and this year, Keepmoat took the opportunity to partner with the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) in hosting these.On Tuesday 6th October, approximately 10 delegates including senior parliamentarians, Chamber of Commerce Chief Executives, external stakeholders and businesses attended a roundtable discussion. The topic for the roundtable was the transition from education to work, which supports the Chamber Network campaign to bridge the gap between education and business, and also complements the education outreach work that Keepmoat is involved in.

The discussion

Although long term trends show unemployment falling, a high proportion of young people are still affected by worklessness, with 12.7% of people aged 16-24 not in education, employment or training (NEET).

While the proportion of young people not in work or education has reduced somewhat, it still remains high compared to other countries. At Keepmoat, we believe it is a joint responsibility between business, education and government, to improve the transition from school to work.

The BCC 2014 Workforce Survey shows businesses are concerned about young people’s preparedness for work, with an overwhelming 88% concluding school-leavers are unprepared for work. Reasons for this identified by firms include lack of work experience (76%), soft skills (57%), and careers advice (46%). The theme for discussion at the roundtable breakfast was centred on how construction companies can work towards surmounting this challenge.

Keepmoat offers more than just trade apprenticeships

Following introductions, Keepmoat’s approach to training was described, highlighting that 9% of its 3,500 employees are apprentices – 49% of which are trades apprentices, meaning that 51% are trainees in other fields such as construction management, customer care, administration and commercial management.

This led to a discussion relating to the benefits of young people not only joining the workforce at 16 to start a trades apprenticeship, but also the benefits to 18 year olds joining ‘professional’ apprenticeship schemes that include day release to study for a degree at a university.

However, Keepmoat and other construction companies need confidence that there will be a steady growth in workload before they can commit to taking on increased numbers of apprentices, with two or three year training periods. The reduction in numbers of apprentices taken on in the industry this summer may be due to the announcements made in the Summer Budget.

The Government’s introduction of a 1% cut in public sector residential rents, in addition to the extension of Right to Buy to housing associations and the consequent hiatus in the commencement of public sector housebuilding schemes, has resulted in the erosion of the confidence the industry has in the achievement of steady growth within the housing industry and the achievement of government housing targets.

Work experience: the route forward

The debate then shifted to the benefits of work experience for schoolchildren and young adults and how this can encourage young people to take up apprenticeships not only in construction, but across all industries.

Not all young people are best suited to what has become the standard route of post-school education via university. Greater respect needs to be given by society to more entrepreneurial and trades apprenticeships routes following school, such as is the case in Germany and other European countries.

Keepmoat has a great track record in providing work experience opportunities. These benefit both young people and companies who have the opportunity to appraise candidates before committing to the recruitment of young people onto apprenticeship schemes.

The appeal

The discussion concluded with a plea for the Government to avoid disrupting the construction sector, so that the market may settle down to delivering its own steady and consistent workload growth. Such a trend was becoming apparent before the Summer Budget and we need to recreate those market conditions, so that employers, both large and small, may feel confident enough in future workload to increase the number of apprentices created within the sector and start to close the skills gap across our country.

All views expressed in guest blogs are that of the authors, and not of the British Chambers of Commerce.

Attendees: Neil Robertson (Regional Business Development Manager, Keepmoat); Eugien Jaruga (Partnerships Director, Keepmoat); Nora Senior (President, British Chambers of Commerce); Jo Churchill MP (Member of the Women and Equalities Committee, Member of Parliament for Bury St Edmunds); Chloe Smith MP (Chair of the Youth Affairs All-Party Parliamentary Group, Member of Parliament for Norwich North); Clive Memmott (Chief Executive, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce); Louise Timperley (Director of Skills and Employment, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce); Jane Gratton (Deputy CEO, Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce).