New blood for the building services sector
By Rob Moore, Operations Manager for JTL
Arguably, there has never been a time when attracting new blood into the building services sector has been so important. Over the past few years of recession, there has been a marked reduction in the number of young people entering the building services sector as many employers, understandably, found themselves having to preserve their businesses in one way or another, and taking on additional staff was not necessarily their major priority.
The result has been a hole in the on-going regular recruiting process that will see fewer qualified electricians, heating and plumbing installers and related professionals coming into our sector at the entry level ready to work their way up to be being high quality individuals offering excellence. And because they take three or four years to work their way through their apprenticeships, that means a three or four year hole in the number of new young people joining the sector, at a time when we may need them more than ever.
As the economy begins to recover, the projects that need bright young people to work on them come on stream ever more frequently. They simply won’t be there, or at least, in the short term, not in the quantity we need them.
It’s disappointing but there is very little we can do about it now. What we can do is to try to make sure it doesn’t happen again. And I’m delighted to be able to share the JTL Training figures for 2013 with you. We’re the leading provider of apprenticeships in England and Wales in the electrical sector and growing steadily towards that role in heating and plumbing. We have more than 6,000 apprentices working with more than 3,200 employers and we’re doing our best to get those figures ever higher to help fill the gaps that will inevitably exist in the need for qualified tradespeople in the years ahead.
Growth in recruitment
Full figures for 2013 are still being compiled but we do know that there has been a sizeable growth in our apprenticeship recruitment over 2012. That’s good news and we’re very relieved to see the recruitment figures heading steadily in the right direction for the building services industry. But we aren’t complacent. We will continue to do everything we can to encourage more and more bright young people to join us.
There is a very real new thought process rippling through the young people of today, seriously considering whether university is the right path for them. For years, society has been telling young people that more and more people have the chance to go to university and gain a degree and that it’s an opportunity their parents didn’t have so they should embrace it with open arms. And whilst it was a three or four year extension of school, with no cost attached, it was undoubtedly an attractive option – an opportunity to delay making any real life decisions for a few more years in pleasantly affable surroundings.
But the arrival of tuition fees has had a salutary response from young people, and has made many of them think twice about university as the ‘inevitable’ next stop in their lives. Despite the gentle repayment terms, the idea of leaving university with £30,000 worth of debt, sometimes more, around their necks has made them think far more deeply about their futures.
In particular those who are bright but not necessarily natural academics are increasingly being attracted by the chance to ‘earn while they learn’. The opportunity for a qualified building services engineer to earn a significant salary relatively quickly – in some cases a more lucrative option than becoming a teacher or going into a white collar job – has made sensible young people think twice and explore their options more deeply.
Apprenticeships in building services
Here at JTL we are doing our bit to educate young people about the options they have and to place the apprenticeship in building services option in front of as many relevant young people as we can.
But we’re not stopping there. We’re working ever more closely with careers advisers, making them aware of the options and benefits of apprenticeships for young people for whom university may not be the right option, so that they can advise young people more clearly. We’ve embarked on a campaign to try and make parents aware of the truth about the options available as well. Parents are still the most influential advisers of their youngsters and many have incorrect or incomplete knowledge about the options and an unnecessarily strong view that university is the only proper option for their son or daughter.
Perhaps most importantly, we are working ever harder with employers, making them aware of the benefits of taking on an apprentice, although evidence suggests we are knocking on an open door in this case, as more and more employers are realising that they need to be bringing bright young people into their organisations from a young age, so that they can grow, with the ethos of that business as part of their education.