Today, 22 August, 4.8 million 16-17 year-olds will be anxiously clutching the brown envelope containing their long-awaited GCSE results.
For many, the grades they’ve received will pave the way for further education and possibly the beginning of a planned career. For others, the work they’ve put in at key stage 4 might not seem so irrelevant: what if the subjects you studied at school bear no relation to how you want to earn your living as an adult? What if you don’t even want to do A Levels?
And what about the UK’s employers? What does each summer’s fresh wave of secondary graduates mean for our workforce and the industries we rely on to keep the country not just running, but moving into the future? It’s all very well for the professions: those who want to go into the law have a well-paved path to walk through conventional academia and into professional training. The same can be said for teachers, architects, and web developers.
But what for the large number of young people whose career plans won’t begin with a UCAS application? How can they find themselves in fulfilling and successful career when the future of our country feels so uncertain?
There’s one thing for sure: you can’t build or decorate a house online, and our construction industry needs more skilled hands to meet demand.
“The building trade’s booming at the moment and there’s a shortage of skilled tradesmen”, says Paul Fairley, owner of Calderside Decorators in East Kilbride, Lanarkshire. Paul contacted CITB via a Facebook post during National Apprenticeship Week in March 2019 because he was looking to meet the increasing demand on his company’s services by taking on an apprentice - who just so happens to be his son.
Twenty-one year-old Liam has been helping his dad out on site since he was 14, but upon leaving school he trained as a fabric welder. It was only later that Liam decided to change direction and join Paul in the family business, with the intention of eventually taking over the helm when his dad retires.
To get make sure that both Liam and the business would benefit from the move, Paul contacted CITB and was soon put in touch with Apprenticeship Officer Peter Williamson. Peter supported the family in getting Liam’s Traditional Apprenticeship off the ground.
After speaking to both Paul and Liam on the phone, Peter was soon visiting the father-and-son team on site to help them complete the paperwork required to get Liam enrolled at college. “Peter’s been really helpful – it was easier than I thought it would be to get all the paperwork done”, says Paul.
From arranging a regular payment of the recently-increased employer’s apprenticeship attendance grant, to explaining how an apprentice’s time is divided –weeks spent learning new skills in the classroom interspersed with practical experience on site- Peter has been instrumental in the journey of bringing Liam formally into the Calderside Decorators’ fold.
“It can be quite scary for someone who hasn’t taken on an apprentice before, so to have somebody there to talk them through the process can be very handy” notes Peter, who was himself an apprentice plumber before joining BITC in 2018. He’s since seen how taking on an apprentice can benefit the person on the other side of the workbench. “From the employer’s side of things it supports their bank balance and upskills their business’, Peter continues. “[the apprentice] can become the lifeline of the business’.
The benefits of training and building-up the confidence of an apprentice don’t come without risk, however – what happens when it doesn’t work out? Luckily for Paul, it’s a family affair and he knows that with the right training, Liam will be a good fit for the business. But this isn’t always the case: a bad experience can put off would-be apprenticeship employers, so for businesses who want to take on an apprentice who isn’t known to them, CITB offers a two-week apprentice work experience programme. “The employer will get £200 in grants and they can get to see how the apprentice performs when given tasks” advises Peter.
Once a good fit has been established the rewards on both sides are huge, and CITB is there every step of the way, supporting both apprentice and employee.
Liam now divides his time between working hands-on as a first year apprentice with his dad and attending college to learn the technical skills needed to become a full- time tradesman.
When it comes to the apprentice soon becoming the master, Paul’s quite relaxed: “The saying goes ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’, but I’m always open-minded… if anybody’s got a better way of doing things I’ll listen”.
Paul is delighted that responding to a Facebook advert has led the business to its new apprentice and one step closer to passing on the family business when the time comes: “It’s definitely worth it. Especially if you’ve got a business and you’d like to bring a member of your family in, I’d say it’s the best way to do it”.
This Thursday there will be plenty of students contemplating more hours spent in the classroom. With the help of a BITC apprenticeship, you can help many more talented young people off the sofa and on site as part of the future of your business.
Back in April we gave you the reasons why you should hire an apprentice. Find out more about the different types of apprenticeships and how to go about hiring and apprentice.