Covid-19 Impacts Apprenticeships

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08.02.2021, 12:03

Covid-19 Impacts Apprenticeships

A reported decline of 30 per cent in apprenticeships within the UK’s construction sector during the coronavirus pandemic by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is confirmed by a recent survey of 500 tradespeople


Around a third (31 per cent)of tradespeople and employers questioned for the survey which was commissioned by specialist online supplier,, indicated that operating apprenticeship schemes had become more difficult as a result of the pandemic in the period from August to October 2020, when compared to last year.



Yet 19 per cent of companies which habitually take on apprenticeships indicated apprenticeship programmes are now more important now than ever, with 8 per cent further suggesting the government has not done enough to support apprentices throughout the pandemic. 


Looking at the year ahead, a quarter (23 per cent) of the survey sample indicated their organisations plan to resume hiring apprentices in 2021, with building surveyors (34 per cent) and electricians (28 per cent) the most likely trades to be looking for apprentices this year. 

Perceptions of apprenticeships differed according to gender, with men more likely than women to consider an apprenticeship a great way of learning new skills (31 per cent against 23 per cent). In contrast, female-led companies were the most likely to be looking for an apprentice in the year ahead, with a quarter of bosses (25 per cent) planning to hire a trainee.

According to ONS figures, female apprentices in construction are also on the rise, increasing by 19 per cent in the 2019/20 academic year compared to the previous 12 months.

The statistics also reveal a changing story for apprentices of colour. While BAME apprentices made up only 6 per cent of new construction apprentices in 2019/2020, this represents a 16 per cent increase to the previous year and an 82 per cent rise since 2014/2015. What’s more, despite the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic, the proportion of BAME trainees continues to grow as they make up 8 per cent of new starters so far this academic year. 

The proportion of new apprentices with learning difficulties is also on the increase, making up 14 per cent of the 2019/2020 intake. This is a 53 per cent increase from 2014/15. This trend seems set to continue as 16% of the 2020/2021 year’s new starters so far have learning difficulties. 

Ironmongery Direct managing director, Marco Verdonkschot, comments: “It’s great to see many tradespeople and companies are still looking to make use of the apprenticeship program, despite the difficulty of the past year.  

“We think the apprenticeship scheme is an amazing way to help shape the next generation of tradespeople, and have launched a competition for a UK based tradesperson or company to win £5,000 towards funding an apprentice.

“There are so many people who do amazing work in the industry today who started out as apprentices, so it’s important that the program continues to be well-funded. More needs to be done to support apprentices throughout this pandemic to ensure that we continue to have great talent in the future, and we wanted to do our bit to help!” 

Survey data 

  1. Survey of 500 tradespeople undertaken in January 2021 
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Staff Reporter covers the latest news, trends and opinion from the facilities management (FM) and corporate real estate (CRE) sectors. The FM market is currently estimated to be worth USD 1 trillion annually and is projected to grow at a compounded annualised rate of approximately 5% between now and 2026.

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