The week - 8-14 February - sends out a reminder of 'our work future after lockdown', says Builders Merchants Federation apprentice provider.

“Apprenticeships are a hugely important part of the economy and are crucial for businesses of all sizes for long term growth,” said The Apprenticeship Management Group Director, John Henry.

This message, from the company that look after apprenticeship for the Builders Merchants Federation, comes as National Apprenticeship Week arrives (8-14 February), this year with the theme, ‘Build the Future’, aiming to encourage everyone to consider how apprenticeships help individuals to build the skills and knowledge required for a rewarding career.

The 14th annual week-long celebration of apprenticeships, taking place across England, will showcase the impact apprenticeships can have on communities, local businesses and regional economies and how they all benefit from the impact of apprenticeships.

"With a majority of industries being affected and impacted by the global pandemic and the restrictions it has brought in, there is “no better time to shine a light on the apprentices and apprenticeship suppliers about how they are involved with training tomorrow’s workers,” Henry said.

“Although not as immediately shocking as the first lockdown the latest stay at home demands have raised greater concerns for both employers and their apprentices. Many have just re-established themselves into a work routine, incorporating PPE and social distancing, but will again test the sustainability of hard pressed businesses for many reasons.

“While employers within the sector are able to continue to supply to a relatively buoyant construction sector, the number of colleagues that can coexist within the merchants and distributors is a consideration that must be addressed."

Preliminary figures for the most recent financial year suggest a further drop of 13% up to April, at which point the statistics were suspended in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak.

Henry addressed the worry that so many apprentices face in light of the current lockdown rules.

“As the young apprentice is often the last in they are fear that they may be the first out. Thankfully, excellent planning, within the working environment, part time furlough options and the support of trade associations have helped alleviate some concerns the creeping although the cost of national insurance and pension contributions transferred to the employer means that a conscious decision must now be made for each and every employee," he said.

The Government's Kickstart programme looks to provide young people with employment and training opportunities without breaking the bank of the employer.

The initiative allows employers to offer a six-month funded work placement. These placements are open to young people aged 16–24 who are at risk of long-term unemployment and are currently claiming Universal Credit.

“Kickstart and apprenticeship incentives have generated renewed interest in planning the future intake of young people for many employers but the inability to meet; interview and scope new job roles will have an impact," said Henry.

"The prospect of a vaccine roll out is obviously an extremely positive focal point. I would urge employers to plan their employment an engage with all of these initiatives now rather than in three months or so. It will take some time to advertise and source the best candidates for your business so plan now either through Kickstart if you are not sure or the apprenticeship route if you remain confident of a positive bounce back.  

“One of the advantages of an apprenticeship is that the individual will develop their relationship within the sector of choice and build a reputation within the working environment. They understand more about the workplace and what to expect, as opposed to going in cold after A-levels or a three to four year traditional degree.”