Home Roofing Five myths about apprenticeships

Five myths about apprenticeships

by Jennie Ward

Ruth Scarrott, Head of Careers at NFRC, dispels five myths around apprenticeships to help contractors overcome some of the perceived hurdles to adding apprentices to their workforce…

Ruth Scarrott, Head of Careers at NFRC.

Throughout 2021, the number of NFRC members reporting that they were experiencing recruitment difficulties increased until it became as much of a concern as material shortages. However, despite this, many roofing contractors are still reluctant to take on an apprentice – this is often due to misconceptions about what taking on an apprentice involves. 

This is reflected in the number of apprenticeship starts for our sector in 2020/21, which shows 300 apprenticeship enrolments in England for the roofing Trailblazer, compared with 3,620 for bricklaying and 8,610 for carpentry (according to data from the Education and Skills Funding Agency). 

With National Apprenticeship Week taking place between 7th – 13th February 2022, now is a good time to look at some of the common myths surrounding apprenticeships and see if there is any truth behind them.

1 – I’m too busy to take on an apprentice

We know that roofing contractors are busier than ever and that investing precious time in taking on an apprentice may not be the highest priority. However, this is a very short-term outlook. By investing in new talent, over time you will build your team to give you more capacity and it will pay dividends in the future. 

Planning your apprenticeship recruitment and onboarding campaign (including having a training provider ready to go) in advance, will save you time dealing with last-minute challenges. We provide a full guide on the steps you need to take for a smooth and streamlined recruitment campaign here.

To make the recruiting and training activities less time consuming, draw on your team to come together – this includes planning and execution. Use the recruitment and training experience to develop your team’s skills instead of feeling like you have to do it all yourself. 

Apprenticeships are a variety of lengths – the roofing apprenticeship, for example, takes two years to complete. Once trained, your apprentice will be an effective member of your team and will be a great asset to then support other new apprentices in your business. 

2 – It’s too complicated 

The process of taking an apprentice on can seem complicated at first, especially if you are doing this for the first time. There are so many different acronyms, funding bodies, and qualifications, and this varies in each Devolved Nation. No wonder many roofing contractors are left scratching their heads.

However, with a little bit of guidance the process is actually quite straightforward:

  • Develop a job description and job advert.
  • Create your new recruit’s contract of employment.
  • Find a training provider or partner to help you plan and recruit for your early careers job – links to these are on our website.
  • Prepare the team and manager of the new recruit to make sure they are aware of their responsibilities of managing them effectively.
  • Advertise the job opportunity. We recommend that you advertise your job opportunities through Talentview Construction.

3 – It costs too much

With the cost of materials and labour increasing and cashflow tightening, it is understandable that roofing contractors may not want to take on extra costs by recruiting an apprentice. 

However, it is worth bearing in mind apprentices perform productive work while completing their apprenticeship, and there are savings to be gained from lower recruitment costs and lower salaries, compared to trying to recruit experienced workers only. Apprentices also become highly skilled even before they finish their training.

According to the ESFA, there are nine key benefits that employers have identifed for recruiting, training and retaining apprentices. This included employers confirming that 25 per cent of their customers are willing to pay more for products from a business that employs apprentices, and 74 per cent of employers say that apprentices improved products or service quality. Plus, 78 per cent say that they improved productivity. 

It’s important to be able to work out how much an apprentice would cost your business every year. The core costs of employing an apprentice are made up of hourly wage, yearly National Insurance contributions and pension contributions, training costs and providing appropriate PPE, tools and uniform.

There are a variety of funding options open to employers of apprentices. These include the ongoing government apprenticeship incentive payment (£3,000) for recruiting a new apprentice and the apprenticeship grants available through the CITB.

4 – They’ll leave anyway

Employers often say that there is no point investing time, money and effort into recruiting and training an apprentice if they are going to leave or be poached at the end of the apprenticeship. 

According to the UK Government’s apprenticeship achievement statistics, 64 per cent of apprentices complete their apprenticeship, with 65.7 per cent being retained by their employer after their apprenticeship ends. This may seem a disappointing stat, however there will never be a 100 per cent retention rate with every employee. 

Whilst apprentices are free to go where they wish once they have completed their apprenticeship, there are proactive steps you can do to ensure they stay. More guidance on effectively inducting and managing your apprentice can be found here

Investing in apprentices by giving them a good workplace experience will mitigate them wanting to leave while creating a talent pipeline for the sector.  

5 – There’s not enough training provision in my area

Roofing training provision is spread across the UK, so it could well be the case that your nearest training centre is not as local as desired. Does this mean you shouldn’t take on an apprentice? absolutely not. Here is what you should do if there isn’t training provision in your area:

  • Call NFRC Careers Service to check as we have close relationships with both existing and new training providers and can make introductions for you to speak to the right person quickly and with confidence. 
  • Consider block release. This means instead of your apprentice attending training once a week, they attend for week-long blocks instead, still receiving the training they need, but in a different way.
  • Tell the CITB. Without industry feedback, the CITB cannot effectively work with us to grow the training provision for roofing. 


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