Scott Horner of Marley Contract Services looks at how their apprenticeship programmes are helping address the skills shortage in the roofing and cladding sector.
THE lack of young skilled workers and new entrants entering the construction industry has the potential to limit what looks to be a sustained economic recovery.
It has been widely reported that the skills shortage is reaching a stage where developers are struggling to find tradesmen to build the houses that already have planning consent.
A recent report by CITB quantified this when it stated businesses were struggling to fill 62,000 jobs as a result of lack of young talent entering the employment market.
If, as forecast, the number of houses in demand continues to increase, this situation can only worsen.
That is one of the reasons why we have invested a substantial amount of money in apprenticeship programmes, to help young people out of unemployment, and assist the industry generally in filling the skills gaps.
In Scotland, an apprenticeship can last up to four years with mandatory attendance at a College of Further Education or Training Centre. All our apprentices are registered with The Scottish Building Apprenticeship and Training Council.
In terms of our business, we have seen demand for on-the-job training placements increase significantly during the last few months, partly due to us always having had a healthy intake of new apprentices.
This increased demand follows the national trend of a 32 per cent increase in the last year, with more than 15,000 apprenticeship roles currently available across the UK.
We have been an accredited training provider of Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) for a number of years and currently have 14 apprentices at various stages of their course. Each apprentice is placed onto an SVQ Level 2 in Roofing Occupations. This consists of seven work-based modules including general workplace safety, efficient work practices, handling resources, installation of roofing backgrounds and components, and the installation of preformed weathering flashings, single lap roof coverings to a variable gauge and plain roof tile coverings.
Investing in apprentices has always been a key part of our operation and means we are now better placed to meet the increased demand from housebuilders and housing specifiers looking to take advantage of the upturn.
We work with many of our customers on joint apprenticeship programmes, for instance, as part of North Ayrshire Council’s Term Contract Apprentice and Trainee Recruitment Scheme.
After being awarded a major rendering and roofing contract with the council, we were required to recruit one person from the local community in which we worked for every £1m of issued funds.
In the end we exceeded this by appointing four apprentices and seven local trainee operatives. We also initiated a new apprentice and trainee system with their sub contractors which led to recruitment of a further seven local operatives.
Apprenticeships offer a number of benefits to both the individual and the training provider. For apprentices in our business, it gives them the opportunity to work alongside experienced staff while gaining job-specific skills and ultimately achieving relevant qualifications.
Our customers see an immediate benefit in terms of the trainees putting their skills into practice every day on working sites as well as it resulting in a more stable workforce.
With limited places available, becoming an apprentice with us is not an easy task. Each trainee goes through a tough selection process before officially being taken on.
They are first placed within a squad and assessed over a six-month period on various criteria ranging from problem solving to numeric skills and work ethic. After the six-month trial, trainees have a choice of two routes. They can become an apprentice and work towards being a fully qualified tradesman, or choose a more basic operative route, which involves more general manual labouring with the opportunity to progress to SVQ Level 2 in the future.
Apprentices are a valued part of our team and we are committed to supporting their development. We have found they bring much needed fresh talent into the industry, whilst offering customers a better informed, knowledgeable team of roofers that are up to date with latest legislative requirements.