I think John Smith’s appraisal of the lack of training was very astute but I was wondering whether I could offer a glimmer of hope.
It is true that delivering apprenticeships is incredibly hard work because of the industry’s fragmentation. However, there are companies that have pioneered a successful solution – namely, social enterprises. These are government-backed schemes and they usually arise where there is market failure with social implications. Sheffield Rebuild was one of the first to adopt this model and, seven years later, it is a £6m contractor with 150 staff, one-third of whom are on apprenticeship schemes.
First Fruit Construction is launching the model in east London in response to the demand for construction in the area, which has been made even more acute by the Olympic programme. In the East End, there is high unemployment and lots of training providers, yet there is still an enormous skills shortage. The bottleneck is not the capacity of training providers, as they still struggle to find jobs for their trainees.
The problem lies with market fragmentation and an industry that is halfhearted in its desire to work with semi-skilled labour. The industry, of course, consists mostly of sole traders and it is their desire to remain their own boss that is at the heart of this inefficiency.
Daniel Brewer, director, First Fruit Construction