Fears that the next generation of apprentice plumbers and electricians will never get the training and qualifications they need are rapidly turning into reality according to one of the country’s leading maintenance companies for renewable energy.
With the lack of suitable tutors able to teach to NVQ Level 3, colleges closing down at an unprecedented rate and a significant reduction in the number of available courses, we are now say the company, seriously failing our young people.
The situation, highlighted by Ecolution Group who work exclusively in the affordable housing sector, is causing major concerns for the company who are finding it increasingly more difficult to get the qualified craft skills needed to maintain the homes of housing association tenants across the country.
Colleges in Maidstone, Gravesend and Bromley which are all local to Ecolution and easily accessible to its fast growing team of apprentices no longer provide courses or tutors in any of the subjects needed.
Government figures confirm this alarming trend. In 2013 some 8.2 million certificates were issued to cover all skills and vocations. This had dropped to 5.7 million by 2018. In the construction sector, there was a 2% drop in certificates issued when comparing 2017 with 2018. This is confirmed by City and Guilds when comparing the July/Sept 2017 quarter with the same period in 2018, which showed a drop of more than 16,000 certificates issued.
For a company such as Ecolution, it means that its own training programme is now seriously at risk after building a massive new facility at its offices in West Malling, Kent, to instruct its own apprentices. The facility also provides further training to local authority and housing association staff responsible for the maintenance and installation of renewables infrastructure.
“We have set up real time training courses and all our apprentices are shadowed and mentored by qualified staff but we are increasingly unable to access educational facilities that will allow our youngsters to get those vital NVQ paper qualifications,” said managing director Paul Bradbury.
“It has been four months since we took on our latest intake of apprentices and we have been unable to find a single college or an available tutor that can meet our and their needs. If things carry on this way we will have people who can do the job but will never have the qualifications to prove it.”
The entire industry has been aware for more than 10 years of a craft skills shortage say Ecolution but it is likely to turn into a crisis unless the Education system is prepared to invest in new courses and attract qualified tutors.
Add on another 10 years and we could see the real possibility that we have no qualified plumbers and electricians and without the paper qualifications to prove they are competent it opens the doors for cowboys and chancers.
“We are rapidly running out or time,” warns Paul Bradbury,” and we need action now.”