Builders in apprentice funding call as confidence rises

CONFIDENCE within the Scottish construction industry has hit a new record peak of PLUS 35.

This is up six points on the first quarter of 2015 and is the eighth consecutive quarter that Scottish building employers’ confidence has been rated positive overall.

The result is part of the latest Scottish Construction Monitor, a quarterly survey of the membership of the Scottish Building Federation. Employers responding to the survey are asked how confident they feel about their company’s prospects over the next 12 months compared to the previous year. The latest confidence rating is the highest recorded since the Scottish Construction Monitor began in 2008.

The latest survey also asked a series of questions about future priorities for levy and grant funding within the UK industry, which is managed by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB). Construction industry employers are required by law to complete an annual CITB Levy Return. The money raised is used to provide training grants and other services to support the UK construction industry.

CITB is undertaking an investment funding review to examine whether current funding arrangements are meeting employer training requirements and how these might be improved in the future. The results of this review will be used to introduce changes to the system in the course of 2016.

Employers responding to the survey identified apprenticeships as the top future priority for grant funding, followed by health and safety training and technical or professional training. In 2014, the industry levy generated a total income of £160 million. £144 million of this money was returned to the industry, including £47 million in formal grants for apprenticeships.

Scottish Building Federation Managing Director Vaughan Hart said, “It’s encouraging that employers’ confidence about their future prospects is continuing to rise. The results are particularly striking against the backdrop of recent reports that overall business confidence in Scotland has declined due to falling profits.

“In construction, there can be no doubt that margins remain very tight but there is at least a supply of new work out there now, which certainly wasn’t the case two years ago. As we’ve said before, certain sectors of the industry are faring better than others and we’re concerned that industry employment is lagging significantly behind output.

 “I’m encouraged that employers view apprenticeships as a top priority for future investment from the industry levy. Hopefully, this finding will add strength to CITB’s arm in prioritising apprenticeship funding as it reviews the future training needs of the industry.”