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Building industry: funding cuts may hit jobs for apprentices

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IMMINENT changes to the apprenticeship scheme have seen construction industry representatives urge the States to retain the current funding structure.

(Picture by Rui Vieira/PA Wire)

Following a two-year consultation, Education announced on Monday that a maximum £1,500 grant annually for two years would be available from September 2019.

However, the number of industries eligible for the grant on courses run by the College of Further Education has increased.

A spokesman for the Guernsey Building Trades Employers’ Association said the changes have more than halved the available grants for four-year courses.

‘The GBTEA has been involved in the States apprenticeship scheme for decades and the construction trades courses have been integral to equipping the local construction industry with the skilled tradesmen that it requires, as well as providing young islanders with a structured career route into the construction industry.

‘The GBTEA recognises that the apprenticeship scheme has to evolve and has supported a number of the initiatives in the proposals made, including: working more closely with college on matching potential apprentice students with employers, a reduction from five to four years of classwork, while retaining a fifth year for on-the-job related training and improved English and maths qualifications for apprentices.

‘However, the GBTEA had not been made aware of the more than halving in the level of grant that was proposed for apprentices undertaking four-year vocational courses commencing in 2019.

‘Taking on an apprentice is a significant commitment, both in funding and staff time, especially for smaller employers.

‘The GBTEA is very concerned at the effect this funding reduction will have on the take-up of apprentices by construction employers and would urge the States to retain the current grant system until substantive and meaningful consultation with the construction industry on this matter has been completed,’ they said.

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A spokesman for the college said that not all employers required the grant.

‘However, in order for some employers to continue to be able to support an apprentice, a grant still needs to be available.

‘The working group recognised this and identified that the first two years were a crucial training period for the employer. After this time, the apprentices start to contribute significantly to the business and the economic benefit could be clearly seen.

‘Following significant research, the grant has been simplified to a standardised £1,500 per year for the first two years.

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‘The process of applying for the grant will be simple and user friendly and overseen by employers who are part of the Grant Committee,’ they said. The budget for 2019 was the same as 2018.

The cost of providing the scheme, as well as the length of time it was taking to complete apprenticeships, was highlighted by consultant PwC in a review of Education spending.

ESC budgeted around £400,000 to operate the scheme in 2018.

Alex Warlow

By Alex Warlow
News reporter

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