Foundations for success: UCEM convenes experts to improve built environment apprenticeships

Posted on: 25 May, 2023

Experts from across the built environment sector identified ways to enhance professional and technical apprenticeships at UCEM last week.

Senior stakeholders from large firms, consultancies and academia joined representatives from organisations such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and Council of the Heads of Built Environment (CHOBE) at UCEM’s headquarters in Reading for a series of presentations and lively discussions concerning how to increase retention, continuation and success of built environment apprenticeships.

The event was supported by both the Construction Industry Council and the Construction Leadership Council.

The day began with Jill Nicholls, Head of Construction & the Built Environment, Transport & Logistics at the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE), explaining that apprenticeship starts in the built environment sector were increasing steadily, but that the sector needed to collaborate to ensure more of these apprentices were actually progressing to fully complete their apprenticeship, as this was one of the key measures of success.

Clare Johnson, Deputy Head of Profession at the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), then addressed the audience and highlighted how apprenticeships had enabled the VOA to significantly improve equality, diversity and inclusion in their workforce by attracting people who may never have previously considered a career in the built environment. An example of this is that 30% of the VOA’s surveying apprentices were from a lower socio-economic background and 37.9% are female.

The attendees then split into groups to consider the main barriers to successful built environment apprenticeships and what was needed to overcome these.

There was consensus that apprenticeships needed to become more flexible in terms of training models and funding mechanisms which impact apprenticeship duration and timely completion. Attendees identified the need for employers and education providers to understand the unique needs of apprentices, compared with more traditional learners and thought this could be improved by better engagement allowing more co-design and delivery of relevant apprenticeships.

Anita Suji FRICS, Regional Director at AECOM, said, “A key takeaway from today is for all of us to come together to tackle some of these common challenges that we have all identified. We had all the right people in the room to solve these problems, so hopefully we will not be sitting around in another 12 months discussing the same issues again.”

UCEM Principal, Ashley Wheaton, said, “This was such a rewarding, energising and valuable event today. Together we have some exceptional thoughts and ideas on how to improve and enhance apprenticeships. I would like to thank everyone for taking part.

Since 2015, UCEM has been at the forefront of the agenda to increase the number of successful higher and degree apprenticeships to help meet the UK’s demand for technical and professional skills across the built environment, construction and property sectors. By convening events such as these, we hope to bring together a range of stakeholders to present a unified voice so that various aspects of the apprenticeship system such as funding, delivery and regulation can become more coherent and consistent.

UCEM plans to produce a summary report, collating the main points and recommendations; this will enable the influencing and engagement of key decision-makers, such as government, education and industry.

The event was UCEM’s inaugural ‘INSPIRE’ event, a series of occasional themed sessions that will convene influential stakeholders to consider the various challenges facing the built environment sector (so that it can together INfluence for Skills, Productivity, Industry, Research and Education). The next INSPIRE event is planned for Summer 2023, focusing on the importance of leadership in achieving a more sustainable built environment.