Closing the skills gap

L-R: Josh Flight with Chris Dummer, Truhouse MD
L-R: Josh Flight with Chris Dummer, Truhouse MD

Looking for an apprentice but don’t know where to start? Glass & Fenestration Training Solutions (GFTS) can help to manage the process from start to finish.

Apprenticeships are a vital way of introducing new blood into the industry – but for some installers, the perceived cost and hassle of training can outweigh the advantages.

It can be difficult to know where to find suitable candidates in the first place, time consuming to give them the proper training and development and for smaller business, such as those operating as sole traders, there can be additional hurdles with setting up suitable insurance policies and PAYE.

But with the right guidance, a successful apprenticeship will reap huge rewards. Not just for the individual, who stands to gain valuable skills, income and career prospects but also for the employer who can help to introduce a new generation into the industry and secure the future of their business.

Glass & Fenestration Training Solutions (GFTS) is a specialist training provider that is committed to addressing the industry’s skills gap, and one that can manage the entire apprenticeship process, from initial advertising, to vetting suitable applicants, introducing them to a business, managing finances and taking care of mentoring and training.

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.

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. According to GFTS, many small companies are not aware of this financial support.

“We deal with a lot of very small companies as well as larger ones, and we find that many businesses are unaware of the government assistance they can call on, the funding they can secure, along with support and options there may be for their existing staff too,” says Sam Tinker, director of business and quality at GFTS.

“It’s our role to help them navigate the various processes easily. They really don’t have to try to tackle everything themselves.”

One company that has worked successfully with GFTS is Gloucester based installer, Truhouse.

Two years ago, the company took on Josh Flight, who was 17 years old and straight out of school at the time. Today, thanks to the support of GFTS, he has recently completed his training with a distinction grade and is now well set for a successful career as an installer.

“Linking up with Sam and GFTS has been instrumental in helping us train Josh, they’ve been there for us for the entire journey,” says Natalie Little, director at Truhouse. “Now that he’s completed his training to such a high standard, Josh is not only a great example to the industry, but he’s probably got a more rounded and greater depth of knowledge than some ‘time served’ installers who have been in the industry for a long time.

“Not only is he proving to be a massive benefit to us at Truhouse, he knows he is now set up for life,” continues Natalie. “He can see a career progression, but it’s also a positive development for us because we’re investing in the future of the business.

“Finding an apprentice and making a commitment to their development doesn’t need to be daunting if you have a good training partner – but it’s absolutely vital for the industry that more companies invest like we have.”

“Employers shouldn’t feel that taking on an apprentice is an onerous task,” adds Sam. “We’re here to guide employers all the way. They can lean on us for support and thereby do their bit to help tackle the skills gap whilst at the same time future-proofing their business.

“In addition, if employers or employees would like to talk to us about practical training in order to gain other valuable fenestration-specific qualifications, they are of course welcome to do so.

“We’re currently helping to introduce around four apprentices a week and not just school leavers, but also those who are in their 20s and want to re-train,” concludes Sam.

“Quite often they find the money is actually as good as other trades, the hours are decent and they don’t even need to re-train as much as they thought, but it’s all part of helping to promote the industry in its own right – to make it a career of choice.”