Is pandemic stopping firms investing in apprenticeships?

Education | Latest News | Property & Construction

As part of National Apprenticeship Week, Business Leader is covering related news and insight around the subject. 

A third of companies and tradespeople (31%) who regularly hire apprentices feel that the program has been made harder due to the pandemic, as new ONS figures show a 30% drop in new construction apprentices between August and October 2020, compared to the same period the previous year.

Demonstrating the effect of Covid-19 on the scheme, more than one in five (22%) companies that usually hire apprentices took on fewer in 2020, despite a fifth (19%) of tradespeople believing that the program is more important now than ever.

Commissioned by IronmongeryDirect in the run-up to National Apprenticeship Week, the study also reveals that one in 12 tradespeople (8%) believe that the government has not done enough to support apprentices throughout the pandemic.

Looking at the year ahead, the positive news is that a quarter (23%) of businesses and tradespeople plan to bring on apprentices in 2021. Building surveyors (34%) and electricians (28%) are the most likely trades to be looking for apprentices this year, while painter/decorators and landscapers are least likely (15% and 5%, respectively).

Men in the industry are more likely than women to think that an apprenticeship is a great way for people to learn skills (31% vs 23%). Contrastingly, however, it is tradeswomen and female-led companies that are most likely to be looking for an apprentice in the year ahead, with a quarter of women (25%) planning to hire a trainee compared to only one in five tradesmen (20%).

According to the Office of National Statistics, female apprentices in construction are also on the rise, increasing by 19% in the 2019/20 academic year compared to the previous 12 months.

This represents a much larger trend in growth as there are a huge 333% more female construction trainees than in 2014/2015. So far in the 2020/2021 academic year, the percentage of female new starters has increased to 9%, suggesting that this growth is set to continue.

The statistics also reveal a changing story for apprentices of colour. While BAME apprentices made up only 6% of new construction apprentices in 2019/2020, this represents a 16% increase to the previous year and an 82% rise since 2014/2015. What’s more, despite the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic, the proportion of BAME trainees continues to grow as they make up 8% of new starters so far this academic year.

The proportion of new apprentices with learning difficulties is also on the increase, making up 14% of the 2019/2020 intake. This is a 53% increase from 2014/15. This trend seems set to continue as 16% of the 2020/2021 year’s new starters so far have learning difficulties.

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