Roofing Employers Warned Apprenticeship Small Print Could Stop Funding

Apprenticeship

ROOFING EMPLOYERS who took on apprentices after 1 August last year and before 31 March this year, are being warned they might not get the Government’s £3,000 apprenticeship bonus.

The Government’s apprenticeship incentive scheme was first announced in July 2020, then extended in March 2021’s Budget. Initially, it offered a £2,000 bonus for hiring an apprentice plus £1,000 for those aged between 16-18, (£2,000 for 19–24-year-olds, and £1,500 for aged 25 and over)

The bonus applies to new apprentices taken on between 1 August 2020 and 31 March 2021. The end date was extended in the Budget to 30 September 2021.

Recruiting Roofing Apprentices

With a chronic skills gap and rising demand, many roofing contractors have taken on new recruits expecting to receive at least £3,000. The money can be spent on anything the employer wishes, such as uniforms, tools or training.

For one Lancashire contractor, the incentives meant that it was practical to take on an apprentice for the company.

He employed an 18-year-old in the last week of March 2021 as a labourer. The new recruit is an enthusiastic worker and the contractor offered the youngster an apprenticeship during the second week of April 2021.

The Burnley employer booked a place for his apprentice to train for an NVQ in Roof Slating and Tiling at Bolton College, starting on the next intake, which is in September 2021.

First Available Training

In common with most further education colleges offering roofing, September 2021 is the first available date offered by Bolton College because it is the start of the academic year.

Currently, there is no alternative roofing apprentice training provider in the north west region who can offer a place to a roof slating and tiling apprentice.

At this point, Sue Wharton Group Training Officer of the North West Roof Training Group was approached by the roofing contractor to help with funding applications for the apprentice.

Catch 22 Small Print

Much to Sue’s surprise, after scrutinising the conditions of the Government apprenticeship bonus scheme, she found a Catch 22 type problem in the funding’s small print.

Sue found that for apprentices hired before 1 April 2021, to qualify for the incentive bonus, sign-up by the Apprentice Training Provider must be before 31 May, 2021. Additionally, the Apprentice Employer Rules state that the apprentice must take part in formal learning from that date. Because apprenticeship training is not available in college roofing departments until September, it means the incentive funding cannot be applied for.

The problem means that roofing contractors could be left out of pocket, while apprentices could be left without a job.

Roofing Apprenticeship Training

Apprentice on roofSome construction trade apprenticeships are offered by colleges and training providers with rolling starting dates. However, in the roofing sector most providers start apprentice training at the beginning of the academic year – in September.

Sue took up the problem with the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB). At a meeting with Deborah Madden, Engagement Director and Laura Guy, Engagement Adviser, it was agreed that in the interests of the roofing sector, it’s important that the roofing apprentices are signed up with colleges by 31 May 2021.

This will mean that roofing contractor employers will be able to claim the incentive payment for apprentices taken on between 1 August 2020 and 31 March 2021 as expected.

This early college enrolment requirement is most likely to apply to those apprentices recruited after last year’s college September intake. However, most further education colleges are over-subscribed for roof training and their own funding limits the number of places they can offer.

Following Up for a Solution

In the meantime, CITB’s Deborah Madden is following up the bonus conditions with the Education and Skills Funding Agency (EFSA).

CITB’s Laura Guy, meanwhile, is contacting Bolton College to encourage them to bring forward apprenticeship enrolment to before the end of this month.

If Bolton College agrees, they will then need to advise employers on the learning that needs to happen between June and September, and also devise a recording system.

CITB has committed to helping Bolton College and employers with the paperwork and recording of learning at no charge.

A Wider Problem

Now the apprentice funding problem has been uncovered, Sue Wharton is anxious that roofing contractors in other regions don’t miss out on the funding.

Sue Wharton comments: “This isn’t simply a North West issue. Roofing contractors across England and Wales stand to lose out on a significant amount of funding. It could jeopardise their apprentices’ jobs or even their businesses.

“It’s seems to be a problem for the roofing industry in particular. Roofing is a specialist sector and unfortunately, unlike other construction trades, for example brick laying, there is not apprentice training provision at colleges in every town or city. I don’t think it’s fair or reasonable that the roofing sector is penalised in this way.

“At a time when we are trying to ‘Build Back Better” we need to be supporting employers’ investment in skills and jobs, not putting obstacles in their way.”

>> Read more about construction apprenticeships in the news

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