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East Midlands Chamber News

Builder Kicks-Off Apprenticeship Week With Warning to PM

Ian HodgkinsonThe boss of Chamber member Hodgkinson Builders has welcomed Prime Minister David Cameron to build 200,000 new homes for first time buyers.

However, Ian Hodgkinson also claims that without a more holistic approach to apprenticeships, the country cannot hope to have the skills to build them.

Mr Hodgkinson, managing director of the firm, baed on Pride Park, in Derby, employs more than 100 bricklayers. He made his comments at the start of National Apprenticeship Week - an annual initiative aimed at celebrating apprentices and their contribution to business and the economy.

He said: "There were two announcements recently which I found frustrating, but hugely encouraging. Firstly, David Cameron’s pledge will be welcomed by those of us in the trade as it means jobs and growth. However, I really do worry that we haven’t go the skills base in this country’s labour force to deliver these projects - it’s a legacy from the recession.

"During the downturn, instead of putting out fires, we should have been preparing for the upturn. The Government should have been investing in training young people in readiness for the market picking up again - just as Mr Cameron is now promising with these houses.”

"However, at the same time, I echo the recent announcement by the British Chambers of Commerce, which noted that 57% of employers cite a lack of soft skills such as communication, resilience and team working, as the main reason why young people are unprepared for the world of work.

"This is just as much an issue in construction as it is across the UK labour force.

"If we are to develop the stars of the future for our industry it isn’t just about the ability to lay bricks or erect scaffolding. There are softer skills that need to be mastered, be they punctuality, courtesy, confidence or even driving.

"It is little use hiring young apprentices if they can’t get to site and even worse when they don’t necessarily see the impact that tardiness or a perceived lack of respect can have on their employer and ultimately, their career.

"I’m sure this will be the case across many industries but I will concentrate on my own and to that end, I am already exploring the possibilities of linking up with education providers to create a holistic approach to training apprentices.

"There is a real opportunity to be grasped, let’s just hope our future stars can take advantage of it."