A rallying call has come from the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and the industry for construction employers to increase the number of female apprentices in their business.
With women making up only one in ten of the total construction workforce and one in 100 frontline workers, the WMCA is working with the Cross-industry Construction Apprenticeship Task Force (CCATF) – a membership organisation promoting the benefits and value of apprentices in the sector – to help address this gap.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, was the keynote speaker at the CCATF’s annual conference yesterday, the third such event to be held by the organisation, with this year’s event focusing on developing opportunities for women in construction.
Flannery apprentice Danielle Taylor
More than 100 members of the CCATF, who are all involved in delivering apprenticeships – including construction employers of all sizes, training providers, local authorities, other public sector organisations and the WMCA – joined the virtual West Midlands event.
The Mayor said: “We know the pandemic has had a massive impact on the number of apprenticeships, with these dropping significantly in the West Midlands and across the country. This is why the work of the CCATF, working collaboratively with the WMCA, businesses and organisations across the region, is even more crucial to our economic recovery and to ensure that we don’t have a generation of young people left behind.
“It’s great to see that the focus of the CCATF conference is women in construction, as only eight per cent of construction apprentices in the West Midlands are female. This is an opportunity for us to consider what we can all do to encourage more women to take advantage of this growth sector, as large-scale projects such as HS2 roll out across the region.
“The WMCA is increasing the number of apprenticeships in the West Midlands through our Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund, which enables large employees to pledge their unspent levy to fund the training of apprentices at local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Over £21m has been pledged and to date, 2,023 apprentices at 684 SMEs have benefited from the fund over the past two years.”
Martyn Price, Chair of the CCATF, said: “The CCATF are working with employers and other key stakeholders to minimise the impact of the pandemic on apprenticeships and the wider skills landscape in the construction sector. In this, our third Annual Conference, we are delighted to team up with the WMCA to promote the skills agenda within the region.
“We have a golden opportunity to work with the Mayor and his team in developing sustainable skills outcomes that will boost the regional workforce. Working in collaboration with the WMCA, local employers and other stakeholders, we can improve the economic outlook and, critically, present skills outcomes for those businesses and ultimately employment opportunities for the community at large.”
Steph Sheppard, Project Manager – West Midlands at Women Into Construction, said: “A diverse workforce is an innovative and productive one. By encouraging more women into construction, and welcoming them when they get here, the industry will benefit from better solutions, more collaborative teams, and stronger businesses. It’s vital that we continue to raise awareness of the wide variety of careers in construction and support women to access these jobs and apprenticeships; helping to bridge the skills gap and adding value to UK businesses.”
The event also included a presentation on the current economic situation from Dr Julie Nugent, Director of Productivity and Skills at the WMCA, and a session with panellists including Paul Skitt, Skills Development Director at Flannery Plant Hire.
He said: “Employing more women has increased the diversity of our workforce, which has helped improved productivity and business growth. Flannery proactively takes part in career events specific to the needs of women and encourages women in the industry to become role models for other women in the Flannery team.”
Flannery apprentices include Danielle Taylor, from Solihull, who joined the company after working in the banking sector for nine years.
She said: “The variety of the job is fantastic, and I love meeting all the different people on-site. I’ve still got so much to learn, and I want to focus on improving my skills and becoming a better operator.
“Before I joined the industry, one of the things I found a bit daunting was the perception that it’s such a male-dominated industry that some men wouldn’t like a woman on-site. But I can honestly say I don’t feel any different to the boys. My foreman is an advocate for women on-site, and everyone has been totally supportive.
“I really don’t want other females to think that there are any barriers to entering the industry. I have never regretted my decision and I want women to understand what an amazing career it is.”
Employers can find out about the Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Fund by visiting www.wmca.org.uk/apprenticeship-levy
For more information about construction training funded by the WMCA, visit https://beta.wmca.org.uk/what-we-do/productivity-and-skills/construction/