Council-Led Housing Forum – How apprenticeships can help build recovery

LB Hackney 'Hackney Works' apprenticeship scheme - apprentices standing on steps of Hackney Town Hall
LB Hackney ‘Hackney Works’ apprenticeship scheme. Credit: LB Hackney

In the context of building recovery and ensuring there is an effective and just response to the pandemic, councils are looking at how to create more opportunities for under-presented groups to get involved in housing delivery. Creating apprenticeships has the potential to be a very successful route to increasing diversity in council development teams. Diverse teams better reflect the variety of the communities they serve and are more likely to generate innovative ideas and deliver homes that are inclusive of varied needs. Plus, a more diverse workforce is more likely to attract new diverse talent.

To explore how apprenticeships for housing development management might be created, the Council-Led Housing Forum ran a roundtable on apprenticeships and traineeships.

Speakers included:

  • Tim Gallagher, Principal Policy Officer for Skills and Culture, London Councils
  • Sarah-Jane Marcello, Hackney Apprenticeship Network Manager, LB Hackney
  • Alex Sewell, Special Projects Lead, Housing and Planning, London Councils
  • Oscar Watkins, Construction Sector Lead, London Progression Collaboration

On apprenticeships

Oscar Watkins of London Progression Collaboration (LPC) gave a cross-sector perspective on how apprenticeships can help London build back better from the pandemic. LPC has worked specifically with the construction and the built environment sector to support hundreds of Londoners getting into apprenticeships.

London currently has the lowest percentage of people starting apprenticeships in the whole of the UK, largely due to employer barriers, such as lack of knowledge and access to funding. The LPC is working with both small businesses and local authorities to help break down these barriers and ensure apprenticeships work equally for the apprentice and for the employer.

Meanwhile London Councils is bringing London boroughs together to support the development of all types of apprenticeships and is working with the London Housing Directors’ Group (LHDG) to develop a specific initiative to create an apprenticeship for development management teams building new council-led homes.

To understand the challenge of doing this Tim Gallagher laid out the apprenticeship requirements, the funding available, and the logistical barriers. Tim was quick to emphasise that apprenticeships are not only for young people, and that many older people including existing council staff become an apprentice to upskill or even to re-train. In fact, across London, apprentices over the age of 25 have more than doubled in the last two years.

Apprenticeships are funded through the Apprenticeship Levy, which is a charge payable by all large employers, such as local authorities. Any portion of the levy that isn’t used is returned to central government. Unfortunately, London boroughs significantly underspend their apprenticeship levy – only 26% of local authorities’ apprenticeship levy was used between 2018-20. Tim identified some of the barriers that local authorities face in initiating their own apprenticeships. These include:

  • A lack of training on how to run apprenticeships
  • A shortage of staff to specifically work on apprenticeships
  • The fact that the levy can’t be used to cover all of the apprentice’s salary. The minimum required rate for apprentices is £4.30 per hour, however the majority of London boroughs pay at minimum the London Living Wage (currently £10.85 per hour).

Traineeships

Tim also highlighted the opportunity for councils to create traineeships which are skills development programmes for 16-24-year-olds, running from six weeks to a year. The government has committed to funding 40,000 traineeships this year, however funding only covers the training element and not the salary of the trainee, and the apprenticeship levy cannot be used for the shortfall.

Tim also highlighted the opportunity for councils to use the Kickstart programme for developing talent. This is a government scheme running until December 2021 to employ 16-24 year olds for 25 hours per week at national minimum wage.

Creating an interborough development management apprenticeship

The LHDG and London Councils are creating a new interborough development management apprenticeship scheme. The scheme is the result of Future of London’s research commissioned by LHDG and the North London Housing Partnership into the pan-London skills shortage in council-led development teams. FoL’s research identified skills shortages and options to address this, with apprenticeships identified as a priority.

Starting as a pilot, Hackney and Islington Councils are leading on the development of the scheme. They aim to collaborate with other local authorities to create a programme in which a series of placements will give apprentices development work experience on a variety of projects at different stages. Something which would be more difficult to achieve in a single authority. The target group for the apprenticeship scheme is new talent, including those without any previous experience of working in housing or construction.

A steering group is being put together to agree the apprenticeship delivery model, identify the specific skills gaps that the participating boroughs need to address, and procure a training provider to be shared between the collaborating local authorities.

Any interested local authorities are invited to join the steering group and get involved with the planning of the inter-borough apprenticeship programme – further details at the bottom of the page.

As there is no apprenticeship standard for development management, LPC made some suggestions on how London Councils and the steering group might progress. They recommend that London boroughs could:

  • establish their own in-house apprenticeship training and become a registered training provider, which would give them control of the curriculum.
  • create a trailblazer group for one or more new apprenticeship standards to specifically address their skills shortages.
  • work with existing apprenticeship training providers to adapt existing curricula for development management skills.

LPC is able to provide support to all London local authorities developing apprenticeship programmes and can be contacted directly to discuss this in relation to any skill.

Next Steps

If you are interested in joining the steering group for the interborough apprenticeship for development management, contact Alex Sewell, Alex.Sewell@londoncouncils.gov.uk.

If you would like support for your own apprenticeship initiative from the London Progression Collaboration (LPC), contact Oscar Watkins, O.Watkins@ippr.org.

Find out more about FoL’s Council-Led Housing Forum here.