According to Department of Education data, the total number of apprenticeship starts among under 19s has fallen by 8% since 2017/18 to 83,300 and by 23% from 2016/17 figures. This drop is despite the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in April 2017 which is designed to encourage employers to invest in future skills.
In a bid to drive up the number of young people entering the heating trade and help tackle the sector's ongoing skills shortage, OFTEC is underlining the advantages of apprenticeships through its 'Tomorrow's Technician' initiative.
David Knipe, Training Manager at OFTEC, explains: Apprenticeships provide an excellent, low cost way to recruit, particularly when almost wholly funded by the Levy. Heating businesses can train apprentices in the skills, knowledge and behaviours they need to fit their company, while taking on younger talent can often bring fresh, valuable ideas to a business. Studies have also shown that trainees are more likely to be loyal to the company which has helped them develop.
At a time when the industry is facing a widespread skills shortage coupled with an ageing workforce, it is crucial to encourage more people to join this exciting and constantly evolving sector. We hope Tomorrow's Technicians will help to achieve this.
Smaller heating businesses and sole traders, who make up the majority of OFTEC's registered technician base, will qualify for 95% of apprenticeship training costs to be funded by government through the Apprenticeship Levy. Those taking on an apprentice under the age of 25 earning below the higher tax rate will also be exempt from paying National Insurance contributions, while those training a 16-18 year old could qualify for an extra £1,000 payment.
David Knipe continues: Heating businesses who are interested in capitalising on this valuable opportunity should contact the National Apprenticeships Service or their local further education provider for more information. Employers do not have to rely on training providers to advertise their apprenticeship vacancies and can do so on their own websites to retain control of the application process.
A recent OFTEC survey found that 48% of our registered technicians entered the industry through an apprenticeship – in fact, OFTEC's own CEO Paul Rose began his career this way. We hope more young people will be given the opportunity to benefit from this valuable career opportunity.
To further support apprenticeships as an excellent route into the heating industry, OFTEC is offering free registration for the first year to newly qualified apprentices. In Great Britain and Northern Ireland they should have completed training up to Level 3 and in the Republic of Ireland up to Level 7. They also need to be employed with an OFTEC registered business.