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BESA backs Chancellor’s plans for apprentices and green economy

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has welcomed the Chancellor’s plans to boost the ‘green economy’ and support apprenticeships.

It described Rishi Sunak’s £3bn fund for low carbon projects as a “welcome shot in the arm for the built environment” and praised the £2bn worth of measures aimed at improving employment prospects for the younger generation.

The government’s ‘kickstart’ scheme includes £2,000 for every employer who takes on an apprentice and £1,000 to any willing to take on new trainees. It is designed to create new jobs for any 16 to 24-year-old “at risk of long-term unemployment,' according to Mr Sunak.

Firms will also receive £1,500 if they take on an apprentice aged over 25.

In his Summer Statement, the Chancellor added that he was supporting “a green recovery' by injecting funding into low carbon projects that would help the government meet its long-term net zero carbon targets while also boosting employment to soften the shorter-term economic blow caused by the Covid-19 crisis.

His £2bn Green Homes Grant would help homeowners improve the energy efficiency of their homes through measures like better insulation, boiler upgrades and the deployment of heat pumps through grants of up to £5,000 per household.

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A further £1 billion will be invested in making public buildings such as schools and hospitals more energy efficient and Mr Sunak has also allocated £50 million to improve social housing.

This funding comes on top of the £5bn ‘New Deal for Britain’ announced by the Prime Minister last week, which is earmarked for building homes and infrastructure and providing much needed repairs and upgrades to hospitals, schools and FE colleges.

“This is all very welcome spending that will help to generate a pipeline of work for SMEs in our sector,” said BESA’s Director of Legal and Commercial Debbie Petford. “It is a bold plan that will address the twin challenges of cutting carbon and creating meaningful employment.”

Plans to tackle the NHS’s £6.5bn maintenance backlog should also be accelerated “as a matter of urgency”, according to Ms Petford, who said £3.4bn of that work is categorised as “high or significant risk”.

Speeding up the project pipeline and freeing up cash would make it easier for employers across the building engineering sector to make crucial investment decisions and hang on to their skilled staff, the Association added.

“More than 500,000 people left the construction sector during the last recession and we simply cannot afford for anything like that number to be lost again,” added Director of BESA Training Helen Yeulet. “We applaud the Chancellor’s efforts to address the wider employment picture, but additional support will be needed if we are to be able to retain our skilled people while welcoming fresh talent into the sector.”

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