Northern Counties Builders Federation (NCBF), an organisation which promotes the interests of regional SME construction companies, has launched an innovative apprentice bursary scheme initially worth more than £60K to assist its members to take on apprentices.

The exact financial contribution may vary slightly depending on the apprentice’s age and length of qualification, but it means that employers could receive funding in excess of £60k which would mean that taking on an apprentice would be at a minimal cost to each company.

The scheme is being trialled for the first time this year with three bursaries.  Members of NCBF were given the chance to bid for funding contribution which has been awarded to Surgo Construction, Historic Property Restoration and FT Group.

Ken Parkin, chair of NCBF is keen to see how the scheme performs and believes it could make a big difference to member companies.  He explains:

“Following a number of years of recession and uncertainty about workload, particularly for SMEs, there has been a severe decline in the number of apprentices taken on to learn traditional craft trades.  This has led to a skill shortage throughout the industry. Trade apprentices are also often overlooked in terms of their importance to the industry.

“Completion and retention rates locally have exacerbated this as many of these apprentices have not had the benefit of continuity of work.

“Whilst the situation is slowly improving, the NCBF Board recognises that to some members, the financial burden and concern around being able to provide sustained work experience to an apprentice makes them reluctant to employ one. For these reasons, NCBF decided to offer its members the chance to bid for three apprentice bursaries in 2018, which will substantially fund the training.”

The apprentice will be employed by one single company but if that company is unable to provide continuity or variety of work, then other NCBF members will fill the gaps to provide the apprentice with suitable experience.  This level of support would also apply in the case of a company insolvency.

The scheme would guarantee the apprentice at least two years employment after the apprenticeship is complete and similarly, the apprentice would need to make the same commitment to their employer.

The bursary is available for brickwork, joinery, stone masonry and other trades and will cover the cost of wages for each apprentice for the term of their qualification with support to L3 if appropriate.

Mr Parkin continues: “It was great to meet the apprentices that have been employed and their enthusiasm gave me confidence that this scheme will be successful.

“We strongly believe that this unique scheme will encourage more young people into the industry to receive the best type of training with the right type of company.”