UK election campaign renews focus on technical apprenticeships

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Government promises increase in apprenticeships

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has welcomed the renewed focus on technical apprenticeships triggered by the general election campaign.

The Conservative Party has pledged to deliver 100,000 ‘high skilled apprenticeships’ annually by the end of the next parliament as an alternative to university degrees, which it claims do not offer value for money or good employment prospects.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) estimates that one in five students, approximately 70,000 each year, would have been financially better off not attending university in terms of lifetime earnings.

The Office for Students reports that nearly 30% of graduates do not secure skilled employment or further education within 15 months of graduation.

The proposed government initiative would represent a 30% increase in new apprenticeship starters.

Labour’s apprenticeship and skills proposal

Labour has also introduced its own proposal, a ‘growth and skills levy’, which would allow employers to allocate up to half of the government funding they receive to train existing staff in high-level technical skills, including building retrofit and engineering.

The party has committed to reserving at least 50% of the training levy funds for apprenticeships and aims to create 150,000 traineeships for young people.

BESA has highlighted that while technical apprenticeships are valuable alternatives to degree courses, employers require significantly more financial support to accommodate the increased number of apprentices proposed.

According to the IFS, the training levy raises around £550 million more from larger employers than is currently allocated to apprenticeship funding.

BESA’s involvement in apprenticeship standards review

The Building Engineering Services Association, representing employers across the building services engineering sector, has recently collaborated with the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) on a comprehensive review of apprenticeship standards.

The Department for Education (DfE) has confirmed new funding arrangements for building services apprenticeships, including £12,000 a year for the new building services engineering (BSE) installer course, £17,000 for BSE craft person, and £18,000 annually for BSE service and maintenance apprentices.

These funding bands will take effect from the new academic year starting in August.

Helen Yeulet, BESA’s director of competence and compliance, said: “We are pleased to see technical apprenticeships getting high level political attention, which comes hot on the heels of the very positive funding news from the DfE.

“We have been working hard on behalf of our employers to update and improve apprenticeships to help plug the industry’s skills gap. Confirmation of funding is a huge step forward.”

The current state of BSE apprenticeships

According to DfE data, 15,570 apprentices started working in the BSE sector during the academic year up to last July, a 20% decrease from the previous year.

However, the BSE technician and professional categories experienced growth, albeit from a relatively low starting point.

The larger operative category saw a 9% decline.

BESA believes that recent changes to courses and the confirmation of government funding will encourage more employers to invest in apprenticeships in the coming years.

Yeulet added: “Apprenticeships offer great value for money and represent an excellent option for people of all ages looking to learn new skills and improve their employment prospects.

“We are encouraged that this is being debated by the main parties during the election and will continue to work with the new administration to turn the vision for a future powered by apprenticeships into reality.”

Read IFSJ’s exclusive interview with Xact on the advantages of apprenticeships in the fire sector.

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