Give 14 to 16 year olds chance to learn a trade

Teenagers should be given the chance to study a construction skill alongside traditional academic subjects, a new report from politicians and industry has recommended.

The report by the cross-party Commission on Apprenticeships says 14-16 year olds should be able to have a vocational subject, like bricklaying or joinery, on their school timetable. The commission report, published by think tank Demos, was previewed at the Building Futures conference in London, where a poll of conference delegates voted this measure top of their wishlist.

MP Robert Halfon, co-chair of the commission said: “We still have a big problem culturally with apprenticeships in this country”. He added that the new breed of university technical colleges, which provide technical and science-based learning for 14-18 year olds, could be key to skilling up young people and improving perceptions of apprenticeships, adding, “I would like to see a university technical college in every town in the country.”

The commission’s work builds on the government-initiated Richard Review of apprenticeships, whose findings were published in 2012. Other recommendations from the commission report include:

  • Employer bodies should build partnerships with schools
  • Government should publish a definitive list of occupations that apprenticeships can lead to
  • Government should trial a mutual guarantee arrangement, where employers clarify their investment in off-the-job training and what people should expect from the apprenticeship while apprentices commit to completing their apprenticeship or covering their training costs.

Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) chief executive Adrian Belton also flagged up future initiatives at the Building Futures conference, which was organised by CITB and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. He said CITB is planning to:

  • Launch a skills matching service for employers in the autumn. This would help employers with funding, skill reviews and other processes
  • Launch a web portal as a single point of guidance for anyone contemplating a career in construction, also in the autumn.
  • Develop stronger provider partnerships, bringing together local government and employers to see how local demand for skills can be addressed.

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