Construction apprentice support scheme ends after 90 years


A SCHEME set up almost 90 years ago to support apprentices in the construction industry will stop accepting new registrations at the end of year.

The Scottish Building Apprenticeship and Training Council (SBATC), a body recognised by those in the industry who have undertaken a craft apprenticeship, has written to trade union partners to formally notify them that the Scottish Building Apprenticeship Scheme will cease to accept new apprentice registrations from Monday 1 January 2024. 

In their letter, SBATC say the removal in 2017 of the requirement for mandatory registration of traditional craft apprentices with an industry body saw applications plummet.

A report by the Fair Work Convention published in 2022 recommended the requirement for registration to be reinstated. However, there has been no formal commitment by Scottish Ministers to date, therefore the decision has now unfortunately been taken to wind down the scheme.

Consequently, new apprentices in the construction sector will not be protected and supported by SBATC’s collectively bargained terms, most notably apprentice rates of pay and harmonised conditions. It is envisaged that this will be detrimental to the sector, making it harder to attract and retain new entrants at a critical time when the industry needs to train the next generation of skilled craftspeople.

However, the registrations of all existing apprentices indentured with SBATC will be honoured until the conclusion of their apprenticeship.

Commenting on the decision, Vaughan Hart, Managing Director of the Scottish Building Federation (SBF) and SBATC Employers’ Secretary, said: “SBF firmly believes a mandatory registration scheme should be the preferred model for the construction industry to support apprentices and ensure they are protected by collectively bargained terms and conditions as they enter the sector.”

“Following the decision in 2017 to make apprentice registration entirely optional, SBATC has endeavoured to address the matter through the Scottish Government, CITB, SQA and fellow industry stakeholders with a view to reinstating a compulsory registration scheme but these efforts have failed and after six years we must now move forward and continue to support apprentices in other ways where possible.”

Steve Dillon, Regional Coordinating Officer with Unite the Union and SBATC Employees’ Secretary, expressed deep concern over the discontinuation of the Scottish Building Apprenticeship Scheme, emphasising the negative impacts on both apprentices and the broader construction sector.

Commenting, he said: “The decision to cease new registrations for the Scottish Building Apprenticeship Scheme comes at a time when many apprentices are already facing lengthy delays in achieving their qualifications through no fault of their own due to the introduction of superfluous portfolio requirements.”

“Apprentices will play a vital role as we move towards net zero, retrofitting and transferable skills as part of a Just Transition. Unite The Union calls on the Scottish Government to protect young workers and their families and to make registration mandatory.”

“Scottish construction apprenticeships are the gold standard across the world and this Scottish Government are destroying that along with the collective bargaining rights of young workers.”

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