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Infrastructure contracts to incorporate apprenticeship targets

Apprentices, Transport for London

Civils firms that win major infrastructure contracts are to have apprenticeship targets written into their contracts, the government has announced.

From March, the contracts will be key to the government delivery of two targets: creating 30,000 apprenticeships in the road and rail sector by 2020 and achieving an ambition for at least 20% of new entrants to engineering and technical apprenticeships in the transport sector to be women by 2020 - and to achieve parity with the working population at the latest by 2030.

Contracts with Highways England and Network Rail are included in the announcement, with a sliding scale of apprenticeships in line with the value of the work. Suppliers will either create one apprenticeship for every £3M to £5M of taxpayers’ money spent, or deliver a percentage increase in the number of apprentices employed each year during the lifetime of the contract. The overall aim is to have apprenticeships make up 2.5% of the workforce.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “Our record investment in the transport system won’t just deliver new world-class infrastructure, it will create opportunity for people across the UK by guaranteeing apprenticeships through contracts. We are creating thousands of high quality careers across the country, many of which are cutting edge, highly technical and require Britain’s best minds.”

The targets are part of the Transport infrastructure skills strategy devised by Crossrail chair Terry Morgan.

Morgan said: “As we have seen on Crossrail, by working with our suppliers we can help young people begin long and successful careers in an exciting and nationally important sector.” Crossrail has led the waty with over 485 apprentices recruited so far.

“To create a workforce capable of delivering the unprecedented number of transport projects in the pipeline it is vital we increase the number of apprentices and attract more women into the industry,” said Morgan.

“This skills strategy is a huge step in the right direction, but all of us, from parents and teachers to chief executives and industry leaders have a role to play to help the next generation grab the exciting opportunities on offer.”

The report says the target is a “stretching but not unachievable” ambition for the “majority” of infrastructure projects. Morgan, speaking at a recent New Civil Engineer round table discussion on the sector’s skills shortage said that clients needed to do more.

The government is also recommending firms of more than 250 employees start a ‘returnship’ programme to help former employees, particularly women, return to work after time out.

The ICE welcomed the move but stressed the importance that apprenticeships meet an existing industry standard, such as EngTech.

“Development of apprenticeships has traditionally been an area in which we have underinvested, so it is good to see progress. But it is important that the apprenticeships meet an existing industry standard, such as EngTech, and are tailored to meet the technological challenges involved in delivering future transport projects,” said ICE director general Nick Baveystock.



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