Simon Acres: We now need action – not words – to tackle skills crisis

InsightFeatures Thu 6th Apr 2023 by KBBFocus

Simon Acres: We now need action – not words – to tackle skills crisis

Simon Acres: We now need action – not words – to tackle skills crisis

Following on from Simon Acres Group's successful Careers Day in March at its Wellingborough HQ, MD Simon Acres outlines his plan of action for businesses to help industry tackle the skills crisis.

When we put together the agenda for the second Careers Day event, we wanted to focus on solutions and delivering answers rather than more discussion about what could be done. The industry has been talking for too long about the problems and issues – what we need now is for companies to take action to drive forward change. We know that there are many bright young people ready and willing to join our industry, and there is untapped funding available, we must pool resources and knowledge to make things happen.

We realise that there is a lack of understanding and information, which is why we brought together a panel of speakers who could demystify what is involved, and signpost companies onto a pathway that will help them bring young people into their businesses. Companies that want to get started can access details of the training providers and supporters that took part in the Careers Day via our new web-based hub, which will be online soon.

The Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) and LEAP Apprenticeships for example, have a wealth of knowledge about what kinds of apprenticeships are available, and how to fund them. Apprenticeships are not just for trades but available across all sectors of business, with learners able to begin a career at Level 3 and progress all the way to a Level 7, degree standard with a company.

Funding varies at different levels and is available to both levy and non-levy payers. Non-levy payers, (wage bill less than £3m) still receive 95% funding for the apprenticeship training costs. There are also grants and additional incentives for companies that take on young people with cash bonuses and non-payment of National Insurance contributions. From 1st April 2023, the minimum wage for apprentices will be £5.28 per hour, applicable to those aged 16-18 and for 19 or over, who are in their first year. However, as recommended by Alex Glasner from Workpays, at our Careers Day, many businesses choose to increase this rate to maximise retention.

As well as helping companies understand more about the ‘How to’ we wanted to share our experiences of selling the KBB industry to young people when they are considering a career path. There is a lack of good advice for young people about careers in our industry, which must be addressed. Forging links with local schools and colleges is something that everyone can do. We recently visited a local secondary school to present a careers workshop to a group of 15-16 year olds. The workshop was part of a World of Work event run by the school to introduce pupils to different career options. If more companies commit to talking about the opportunities and rewards available, and the diverse range of roles available, we can attract the new blood that we need. 

Finally, we were able to share our own experiences of employing young people. Our two apprentices have brought so much into the business, not least a fresh outlook and new ideas. We have also gained the opportunity to integrate and train them into the way we work, and hopefully provide them with an attractive career path that will keep them with us in the long term. We also heard from Quooker MD Stephen Johnson and the benefits his company has gained from embracing the contribution that young people can bring.

We hope that by sharing our experiences we have shown that this drive to tackle the skills crisis is not just for the good of the industry but that there are solid commercial benefits for companies too. Those who attended our day were awarded 'industry ambassador' certificates. We hope that they will continue the conversation, share experiences, and find ways to take actions of their own to make this something that we can change for the benefit of all.

Tags: insight, features, simon acres, simon acrres group, skills crisis

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