Scottish Apprenticeship Week starts today with the news that construction apprentice numbers are stabilising.
Construction apprenticeship numbers in Scotland have taken a hammering during the economic downturn but registration finally rose in 2011, according to numbers from the Scottish Building Apprenticeship and Training Council (SBATC).
The figures show that, between 2007 and 2010, the number of apprentices registered annually by the SBATC dropped by 52% from 2,758 in 2007 to 1,325 in 2010.
But registrations in 2011 suggest apprentice numbers may finally be starting to stabilise with 53 more construction apprentices registered by the SBATC last year than in 2010.
SBATC is marking Scottish Apprenticeship Week this week by jointly hosting an event with ConstructionSkills at Edinburgh Castle on Thursday 24 May. At the event, keynote speaker and Scottish Youth Employment Minister Angela Constance will officially launch the search for the 2012 SBATC Apprentice of the Year.
Official figures from Skills Development Scotland show 5,799 modern apprentices in training in construction during 2010-11, making it still the most popular modern apprenticeship framework. Meanwhile apprentice plumbers, electricians, and builders made up 29% of the total number of modern apprentices in training in Scotland during that period.
ConstructionSkills director in Scotland Graeme Ogilvy said: “Scottish Apprenticeship Week offers a fantastic opportunity to showcase the skills and dedication of our trainees. There are currently over 5,000 construction apprentices in Scotland and they are the lifeblood of our industry. The skills and enthusiasm they bring into the sector are vital for our future success.
“It is also the ideal time to highlight the benefits to businesses of apprentices and the need for employers to invest in apprenticeships now. We know that many employers, especially smaller contractors are finding it difficult to commit to apprenticeships in what is still a tough market, but forecasts suggests that growth will return to the industry in 2013 and employment in Scotland is expected to grow at an annual average rate of 1.1%, almost twice the rate of the UK as a whole. We are going to need more trades specialist, plant operatives and construction managers to meet demand and now is the time to plan ahead in order to be ready to take full advantage of the opportunities that will arise.”
Michael Levack, Scottish Building Federation chief executive and employers’ secretary for the SBATC, said: “It’s really important that we recognise the skills, talent and dedication of all of the many thousands of apprentices currently in training in Scotland.
“It is particularly important that we recognise the vital contribution that construction employers continue to make in offering so many young people the opportunity to develop specialist skills and to pursue a rewarding career in a strategically important sector of the Scottish economy.
“Despite the ravages of the economic downturn, the apprenticeship opportunities offered by the construction sector remain crucial – particularly at a time when the country is facing record levels of youth unemployment. And with business failures at a record level, the proportion of employers within the construction industry engaging apprentices has held up remarkably well.
“As apprentice numbers stabilise, there’s clear evidence that construction employers are fully committed to offering new opportunities and attracting new blood into the industry. We are ambitious about the future and I look forward to a time when we can start to rebuild apprentice numbers back to the levels we enjoyed some five years ago. In the meantime, Scottish Apprenticeship Week offers the perfect opportunity to celebrate the achievements of Scotland’s apprentices – both in the construction industry and throughout the economy as a whole.”