Apprenticeship uptake drops

Data analysis conducted by Protrade ahead of National Apprenticeship Week 2024 has revealed that there has been a 5% decrease in the uptake of construction apprenticeships across the UK in the last 12 months.

A review of the latest Government data shows there were approximately 24,530 new apprentices taken on in construction between 2022-23, down from the 26,060 recorded the previous year (2021-22).

Whilst those figures remain higher than the ones posted in 2019-20 and 2020-21, the latest decline highlights the sector’s continuing struggle to entice people into the industry, amid the skills shortage crisis.

Slightly more encouraging news within the figures was that female and ethnic minorities starting apprenticeships in the sector have hit their highest levels, according to new data. Nearly 10% of the total number was made up of women, while 8% was made up of ethnic minorities.

A decade ago, the UK government set a target of three million apprenticeship starts in England between 2015 and 2020, focusing on sectors such as engineering, construction, and ICT. However, given the sector’s continuing struggle to meet its target, the Construction Industry Training Body (CITB) suggests that approximately 45,000 people would need to join the sector every year for the next five years to meet the growing demand.

Forecasts indicate that the UK have the fastest-growing construction market of the major Western European economies over the next 15 years. The sector was estimated to have hit £381 billion in revenue in 2023 alone.

Analysing the latest data set, Craig Sanders, Joint Managing Director at Protrade, said: “While there is an acknowledgement that more needs to be done to raise awareness of a career in construction, there remain barriers that need overcoming. There is still a notable lack of sector-specific focus within settings like education. It's crucial to enhance awareness of construction college opportunities and foster a more accessible approach.

“The construction industry needs to ask itself the question as to whether it is setting the bar too high for entry-level positions, particularly when it comes to high academic requirements. We’re in danger of unintentionally excluding valuable talent by setting impossibly high standards as we compete with other job opportunities in different sectors that have become more favourable.

“Contrary to outdated perceptions, today's construction industry is cleaner and safer. We need to dispel the lingering notion of it being a 'dirty' environment and encourage a fresh perspective among potential apprentices."