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25th April 2007

New apprenticeship scheme to drive up employer work placement numbers

ConstructionSkills today announced the roll out of its innovative Programme Led Apprenticeships (PLA) scheme following a successful two-year pilot, with a target of 3,000 apprentice placements by the end of 2008.

Originally designed to help thousands of young people on full-time college courses, the scheme will help train and qualify greater numbers of new entrants by overcoming the current lack of on-site training experience and offering more employers the opportunity to support an apprentice.

Instead of requiring apprentices to work with an employer for a two year period on a day or block release basis to attain NVQ Level 2, as with the traditional apprenticeship, a Programme Led Apprenticeship allows young people to first spend two years on a construction-based college course. During this time, they gain their Intermediate Construction Award (ICA) and Key Skills Level 1, before completing the practical aspects required to attain NVQ Level 2 through a continuous placement of 9-12 months with an employer. Financial incentives, including CITB Grant, are available to employers to support them in taking on an apprentice.

Currently, some 42% of colleges across England and Wales state that some of their construction trainees will fail to qualify to full NVQ level due to a lack of suitable employer work placements, and ConstructionSkills’ own Apprenticeships scheme is over-subscribed by approximately 34,000 potential apprentices a year – restricting the pace of skilled industry growth.

By providing an alternative training structure to employers, Programme Led Apprenticeships supports last month’s Government announcement that by 2013 they want to see more young people continuing in post-16 training and education. PLAs will help to deliver Lord Leitch’s recommendations for improving UK skills, including a target of 500,000 young people on apprenticeships across all sectors by 2020.

Programme Led Apprenticeships aim to provide places for an additional 1,000 students in 2007, and 2,000 in 2008, with even more opportunities for growth predicted in the future.

Keith Watkins, Apprenticeship Operations Manager, said of the initiative:

“This is not intended to be a replacement for traditional apprenticeships which continue to be a vital route to providing the qualified, high quality entrants the construction industry needs. But with 87,600 new entrants required every year for the next five years, we will need to be innovative to deliver the people we need.

“Programme Led Apprenticeships will provide the industry with an additional supply of new recruits, by increasing the number of employers who can take on an apprentice. They will also supply young people with a more diverse range of qualification choices and colleges with a way to improve their completion rates and attract the brightest and best applicants.

“As the Sector Skills Council for construction and the UK’s leading provider of construction apprenticeships, we’re calling on all employers to think about whether they could benefit from an apprentice – and use this new route as a reason to revisit their recruitment strategy.”

Over 80 colleges, FE and private establishments are already working to deliver PLAs, and framework completions delivered as part of the pilot are at 71%, comparing favourably against other apprenticeship schemes. Establishments involve include Bexley College, Barking College, Acton College, CONWL and CONEL in London; Newcastle College, Sunderland College, Redcar & Cleveland College and New College Durham in the North East; Mancat, Bolton College and High Baird College in the North West; Wolverhampton and Walsall colleges in the Midlands; and Bristol and Plymouth Colleges in the South West.

Karen Walls, HR and Business Administrator for John W & S Dorin, a Newcastle based contractor involved in the Programme Led Apprenticeships trial, were very impressed with the programme:

“Taking on apprentices has been an investment that has really paid off for us in the past. Many of our former apprentices are still with us today, so for us it has helped to create a loyal and happy workforce – and ConstructionSkills’ help has been invaluable throughout the process. The new scheme allows us to take on short term apprentices alongside our long term traditional apprentices, which has worked really well for us. Thomas, our apprentice, was useful from day one, and I can see us taking on more in the future.”

James Burrows, one of the students who benefited from the Programme Led Apprenticeships scheme, added:

“I would recommend the Programme Led Apprenticeship as it is a good way to get both college and on-site experience. Carpentry is a great career - it’s fun and interesting and you get to travel around rather than stay in the same place all of the time.”

The roll-out of the PLA scheme will form part of the ongoing work of the ConstructionSkills Apprenticeships, which employs around 270 members of staff, places 9,500 apprentices onto traditional schemes every year and is the largest provider of construction work-based learning in England and Wales.

For further information, visit www.cskills.org/pla or call: Midlands region - 01509 615 005, Northern region - 0113 220 3106, Southern region - 023 806 23823

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