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Free service aims to clear up apprentice confusion

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has launched a free advisory service to help employers and potential apprentices navigate the increasingly complex recruitment and training process.

Run by the Association’s Academy, the Skills Advisory Service aims to simplify and speed up a system that can often be baffling and lead to many young people missing out on career opportunities in the building engineering sector.

The complexity of the various routes through further education (FE) is also contributing to the ongoing skills gap and holding back employers keen to upskill and reskill their workforces and take on new people, according to BESA.

Described by a leading further education professional as “a quick service for busy people” the free service offers impartial advice. It is designed to help both potential recruits and employers find the right qualifications, training providers and sources of funding – and navigate the FE system from beginning to end.

Jill Nicholls, head of construction at the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE), welcomed the launch of this “much-needed service” and said it could prove invaluable to employers and students alike.

“There is a lot of information about apprenticeships out there, but students and their parents don’t know where to look. A lot of it is generic and they are not sure who to believe,” she said. “It is also very hard for employers, particularly SMEs, to find what they are looking for – including what incentives are available etc.”

She explained that because government policy regularly changed some employers did not have the resources or time to keep up to date with the latest requirements. Schools often do not promote vocational education routes and focus purely on A levels meaning that many students miss out, added Nicholls.

“We warmly welcome BESA’s independent source of bespoke information and advice that can translate government information and tailor advice for employers, students and their parents. This quick service for busy people will lead to a higher standard of apprenticeships in the building services sector,” she said.

BESA’s advisory service also complements the vision outlined in the forthcoming Skills and Post-16 Education Bill which is designed to put employers at the heart of the training process. The government sees this as key to reshaping the FE sector so that it delivers more young people ready to step straight into work at the end of their training.

Alongside improving guidance for employers, Nicholls said several of the 11 building services apprenticeship standards would have to be revised because they were becoming out-of-date, and some were not being used by employers. She promised a rapid revision process to make sure they better reflected changing working practices and skills requirements.

Daniele Palacios, general manager of the BESA Academy, explained that the new service was able to tailor its advice specifically for an employer or individual.

“For example, some companies are worried about their ageing workforce and want to set up an apprenticeship scheme. We can help them do that,” she said. “We can also offer advice towards what qualifications someone looking to enter the industry should take – we have already heard from lots of individuals confused about how to find the right route into a building engineering career.

“We can also help employers make the best use of their apprenticeship levy funds by targeting their training in the right areas,” added Palacios, who said it was also important to include competence as part of their training, so apprentices were fully prepared for work.

“The new apprenticeship standards include knowledge, skills and behaviour so, as well as making sure they have the right technical skills, an apprentice’s competence to carry out specific tasks is assessed at the end of the training,” she said.

“That is a very important consideration for employers in this new era of competence and compliance…and will be vital as we seek to narrow the skills gap.”

Daniele Palacios will be hosting skills advisory clinics at the forthcoming BESA National Conference which is being held online on November 3 and 4.


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