In this latest important update about apprenticeships, Sam Tinker, Director of Business and Quality at GFTS writes to the industry to share the information that employers need to know…

Addressing the industry’s skills gap has always been one of the core objectives of the BOS Advisory Panel, and with committed employers behind providers of apprenticeships, supporting youngsters into the industry, we personally are now having a really positive impact ­in this area. GFTS has formed relationships that stretch nationally with Fenestration Installers, Fabricators and Curtain Wall Installation companies of all sizes. To date we have successfully completed 56 apprentices in fabrication and installation with many achieving Distinction grades.

We all recognise that there are many employers who may not feel confident about whether to or how to take on apprentices. The Digital Apprenticeship Service has been streamlined recently to make this process less daunting for prospective employers.

For many employers, taking on apprentices is their only way of bringing new blood into the industry.

Many employers have already identified that they have an ageing workforce and would like to future-proof their business by bringing in young people and new manpower.

Good succession-planning means recruiting and training up employees. It’s a sensible long-term strategy. For apprentices themselves, the benefits are manifold: they get to earn while they learn; they work to a formalised standard; they work with experienced mentors, drawing down on their vocational knowledge and experience; and they achieve a recognised qualification. This approach is great for those people who do not wish to go down a more conventional career path and academic route such as college or university. It’s a win-win for both employers and staff alike.

The Education & Skills Funding Agency subsidises training costs for apprenticeships through training providers such as GFTS, by up to 100% of the cost for 16-18yr olds and 95% for 19+ age group candidates. There is no upper age limit. The only eligibility criteria revolves around previous time served and experience or knowledge.

Larger companies with a wage bill in excess of £3m, already pay into the Apprenticeship Levy to cover the costs of training their apprentices, while smaller employers, not paying the Levy, pay a maximum of 5% contribution and the rest is covered by the government.

In some instances, and depending on eligibility, there may also be grants available to employers who take on apprentices in the 16-18yr old age bracket. Many small companies are not aware of this financial support, and they might like to talk to us about it.

Providers support in many other ways to help employers who are new to taking apprentices on in their business. For example, explaining and helping to gain access to funding and advertising and vetting applicants. It’s our role to help them navigate the various processes easily. They really don’t have to try to tackle everything themselves.

We have also recently been able to assist some apprentices to transfer their learning from other training providers and some who unfortunately found themselves redundant, assisting them all to catch up and to successfully find alternative employment in the industry. Flexible, multi-employer apprenticeships are also now available.

Currently, there are too few apprenticeship standards available in the fenestration industry. Employers can only choose from Level 2 Fenestration Installation, Level 2 Fenestration Fabrication and Level 3 Curtain Wall Installation.

It’s our view, that we need to encourage the development of more apprenticeship standards specific to the different skills sets in this industry. For example, a surveying apprenticeship tailored to the fenestration industry would be a good addition, as would one for glazing and glass processing. There are so many roles that learners can move into. Fabricating and installing are only two aspects of an industry which offers a huge breadth of career paths, and the range of apprenticeship standards should reflect that. The industry as a whole and employers in the glass processing and glazing sectors, are urgently needed to support the trailblazer groups, designing a broader range of standards that are more suitable for a greater number of employers and learners. We need to engage with approx. 10 employers for each skill set who would be prepared to give time to building these new standards with the IFATE.

The existing apprenticeship standards are currently under review too, and hopefully they will be adapted to encourage more uptake.  The Fenestration Installation Standard review is now complete and has been re valued to £9k. The EPA process has been overhauled and allows for flexibility and simulation to prevent the apprenticeship from discriminating against new build and replacement installers.

Curtain Walling is also currently undergoing review and will align the unachievable EPA requirements that exist in the current version. Hopefully the value will be increased too in line with many comparable construction trades in existence.

In regard to the ESFA funding rules, various changes have come in since August, including a relaxation on the need for upskilling apprentices to L2 Maths and English, which has been a huge barrier for a lot of learners, and the need to skills scan 16–18-year-olds who have no previous work or sector experience. Another positive change has been the introduction of ‘absolute’ mentoring for apprentices at all times. This has obvious positive outcomes for learners.

We all need to ensure that employers don’t feel that taking on an apprentice is an onerous task.

All apprenticeships and practical training content is formally accredited, giving learners a CSCS cards too for commercial sites if needed.

We should be here to guide employers all the way. They can lean on providers and BOS for support and thereby do their bit to help tackle the skills gap whilst at the same time future-proofing their business.

In addition, where apprenticeships are not appropriate, or the employees are ineligible for apprenticeship funding, we still need to encourage employers or employees about practical training in order to gain other valuable fenestration-specific qualifications. We can offer a full Training Needs Analysis and provide the correct advice and options for all employees of any age and experience level.

As supporters of qualifications and apprenticeships, helping to drive up standards in the industry and ensuring that businesses can offer defined career paths, the BOS panel can make a difference to attitudes and outcomes for many learners and employers.

Celebrating success for young people who have achieved so much already in the Fenestration Industry is also very important. We need to explore ways to maximise the potential and width of coverage and broadcast success to a wider audience in regard to learners and employers who are already engaged and achieving.

Josh Flight, of ‘Truhouse’ in Stroud, is one such newcomer. With his employer ‘

With ‘Truhouse’ behind him all the way, Josh has recently passed his apprenticeship with a Distinction grade in all 3 elements of his end point assessment and is on the path to a long and successful career as an installer.

Please feel free to contact me if you need any more info at all.

Kind regards

Samantha Tinker

Director of Business and Quality

Tel 01208 813568  Mob 07566767074 / 07513 501717