The Builders Merchant Federation (BMF) has welcomed elements of the forthcoming Enterprise Bill that will give a positive boost to apprenticeships.

Announcing plans for the Bill, Minister of State for Skills Nick Boles said that the term ‘apprenticeship’ will be protected in law, that apprenticeships will be given equal legal treatment as degrees, and that a commitment to create 3m apprenticeships by 2020 will be enshrined in law.

Commenting on this announcement, John Newcomb, managing director of the BMF, said: “We welcome the government’s announcements on apprenticeships. It not only demonstrates their commitment to increasing the number and quality open to young people, but will also encourage students, parents and employers to value them in the same way that they currently value degrees.

“The BMF strongly supports apprenticeships in our own sector and have more than tripled the number of apprentices employed by members since 2013. We offer specialist apprentice-training schemes to our members, which allows them to recruit and train young people. Not only does this help them develop key skills for a career in the sector, it ensures we have the skills needed to keep the merchant sector, a vital part of the building supply chain, viable.”

Mr Newcomb added: “Apprentices can then progress onto the BMF Diploma leading to a Foundation Degree. We are delighted that over 50 candidates have successfully completed the course, with a further 137 students currently studying for their Diploma. This is a first for the merchanting industry and enables an unskilled worker starting out in this sector with no qualifications to achieve career progression that stands comparison with the traditional academic route.

“The BMF is taking an active role in helping to attract more young people to consider a career in merchanting, and we are shortly launching a website aimed at school and college leavers. The fact that we can offer vocational training opportunities to help them progress their career is an important part of this message.”