Apprentices are victims of the credit crunch

As the crisis deepens, students are dropping out of courses and building firms are taking on fewer apprentices.

When Mark Rood began his apprenticeship in electrical installation at Eastleigh College a year ago, he could never have believed that, just 12 months later, he would be a victim of the credit crunch.

During the summer, the electrical firm near Southampton where he worked went into liquidation. Instead of resuming his course this September, 17-year-old Mark found a full-time job with a wholesale company. "I can't carry on at college because I need to find another apprenticeship," he says. "As it was so late in the year, all the apprenticeships were gone."

Last year, Mark attended college for one week each month. He was expecting to continue there part-time for another year before completing his apprenticeship on-site. Now he faces a 12-month wait before picking up the course. "It's really disappointing because I worked really hard for a year," he adds. "It's going to take even longer to get qualified."

Mark's case is a relatively rare one. Since August, Eastleigh has enrolled 1,600 apprentices and other part-time students on construction courses and expects this to double by next summer. "We've not seen any less demand," says Graham Goddard, deputy director for teaching and learning.

Other centres are reporting problems, however. Blackburn College switched two apprentices – a joiner and an electrician – to full-time courses after they were made redundant. Meanwhile, just four apprentices enrolled on a first-year plumbing course instead of the usual 15.

Howard Sharples, deputy head of construction, says that employers will be even less keen to take on apprentices over the winter – meaning that more students will study full-time and gain technical certificates. "They can't do an NVQ because they are not employed in the workplace," he explains.

At Highbury College in Portsmouth, six apprentices have called to say their jobs are at risk and they may not return for a second year. Gas service companies are among the firms most affected, says Dee John, the college's executive director. If alternative employment is impossible, the college will offer them full-time places. But that is not always ideal. "They want to be earning and studying part-time," says John. "We hope that anything we provide is a stop-gap, but the danger is that we will lose them from the sector completely."

The Construction Skills Network says about 42,000 new recruits will be needed annually between 2009 and 2013 – this is less than half the figure it forecasted last year. About 100 people have so far been assisted by a clearing house, set up by the Government with Construction Skills, to help ensure that apprentices can continue their training and find jobs.

Steve Geary, skills strategy director at the sector-run council, says it is often tricky to find enough employers to take apprentices, regardless of the state of the housing market. "Our message to house builders is that they should keep hold of their apprentices for as long as they can." Although full-time courses are an alternative, they do not offer the same breadth of training. "For an apprenticeship to be meaningful, it has to include work-based experience," he adds.

Although the construction industry is in trouble, firms still require skilled workers for large commercial projects. Weymouth College has seen a strong demand from companies involved in developing facilities for Olympic yachting events in 2012.

The number of under-19s on full-time courses at Weymouth is down slightly this year to 150, but adult numbers have risen from 40 to 60 as employers become more selective. "People who were doing a bit of chippying on building sites are finding that work is scarce and employers are starting to ask for qualifications," says John Firth, its head of construction.

Southport College has 70 students taking bricklaying courses, in line with other years. But it acknowledges that the market is changing and, this summer, it encouraged students who were preparing for their second year to find experience with firms that are involved in a range of activities, not just house building.

Through a national diploma in construction, the college offers the opportunity to take on new roles, including management posts. "We can't just say there is a credit crunch and nobody wants bricklayers," says Christine Bampton, Southport's head of construction. "We must ensure that students have progression routes and find the jobs that are out there."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Guru Careers: Graduate Software Developer / Junior Developer

£20 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Software Develop...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Trainee Teacher - Maths

£18000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organization is the larges...

Guru Careers: Graduate Software Developer / Junior Developer

£20 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Software Develop...

Reach Volunteering: Would you like to volunteer your expertise as Chair of Governors for Livability?

Voluntary and unpaid, reasonable expenses are reimbursable: Reach Volunteering...

Day In a Page

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Today's pre-school child costs £35,000, according to Aviva. And that's but the tip of an iceberg, says DJ Taylor
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US