Apprentices are the answer to skills shortage says Suffolk construction boss

L-R directors Simon Girling and Paul Rodwell

A Suffolk construction boss has described apprentices as the answer to the industry’s skills shortage to mark National Apprenticeship Week 2022.  

Simon Girling is the director of SEH French, an Ipswich-based firm operating across East Anglia, where apprentices make up 10% of the workforce. 

Mr Girling, whose apprentices include carpenters and quantity surveyors, said: “The construction industry, like many others, has got a major skills shortage. It’s something that has been ongoing and is probably only going to get worse. We’re certainly seeing the effects of it now more than ever when trying to recruit people.” 

The skills shortage in the industry has been well-documented over the years and that will likely remain unchanged, as it’s forecast 217,000 new workers will be needed by 2025 to meet demands according to the Construction Skills Network. 

Shortages are largely due to an ageing workforce which doesn’t have enough young people to replace them as they reach retirement.  

Data from the Office for National Statistics showed between October and December 2021, there were 42,000 job vacancies in construction. 

SEH French thinks investing time and money in bringing new people into the industry, such as apprentices, will help alleviate the strain present in construction while providing young people with more opportunities.  

Simon continued: “Bringing in new people into any industry is beneficial, young people bring fresh ideas. They [apprentices] live, develop and grow with us as people and in their trade or profession.  

“Apprentices help support our senior staff which in turn helps us operate and have better capabilities for meeting our client’s requirements and our own workloads.  

“Their on-the-job training teaches them how to work to our high standards and how to work as a team. It’s really important to be able to train them to how we want them to work and grow into a professional person.” 

National Apprenticeship Week 2022 is the 15th annual event aimed at celebrating the positive impact apprenticeships make to businesses and communities. 

With this year’s theme being ‘build the future’, Mr Girling thinks it’s the perfect opportunity for construction companies to recognise benefits of apprenticeships.  

He continued: “It’s important for us to contribute to bringing new people into the industry. I think companies have an obligation to do that and to help alleviate some of them problems with skills shortages.” 

SEH French remains keen to create opportunities for more young people across the region, and people are advised to check their careers page for future vacancies. 

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