Five minutes with: Karen Jones, HR Director at Redrow

Five minutes with: Karen Jones, HR Director at Redrow

Housebuilder and construction firm, Redrow, believes that there is real value in apprenticeships when it comes to closing the skills gap in the construction sector – a sector vital to our society.

We spoke to their HR Director, Karen Jones, about the affect apprenticeships have had in their business, and how other firms can best harness the skills of trainees…

What are the benefits of bringing in apprenticeships?

Bringing apprentices into a business provides a fresh pool of talented individuals who can be grown and developed by that business right from the start of their careers. We have found this makes apprentices particularly loyal and they are very often the people who are willing to step-up into a challenging role and stretch themselves. Last year 29% of all promotions at Redrow were trainees.

Apprentices also provide senior people with an opportunity for development in terms of mentoring and training new entrants. We have found that colleagues find it highly rewarding to take a trainee under their wing and help them learn.

Why is this particularly important for the construction sector?

The construction sector is currently facing a significant skills gap at a time when demand for homes and infrastructure across the UK is ramping up. Research from the Construction Industry Training Board, shows that 19% of the workforce is expected to retire within the next five years and the status of EU workers is currently uncertain.

Encouraging more apprentices into construction is an integral, long-term solution to plugging the gap. Our research, Overcoming Aversion to Apprenticeships, highlights the current challenges in this regard including lack of adequate careers advice in schools and misperceptions about the nature and variety of careers in the sector.

One of the key ways to overcome this is collaboration and a fresh mentality of ‘sharing what works’ – no housebuilder or construction firm can solve the skills problem alone.

What’s your advice to HR when it comes to closing skills gaps? For example, for businesses that don’t offer apprenticeships, how can they be ‘sold’ to the Board?

You can present your case to the Board in numbers and show them what the cost of bringing in an experienced quantity surveyor is versus bringing in an apprentice and training them up through the ranks. The latter, we have found, can be shown to be a savvier investment in the business – and in the majority of cases it is. We also find that taking on trainee apprenticeships keeps staff turnover low, because they are often very loyal and, of course, very eager to complete this stage of their careers.

There is also a wider social value benefit, particularly in terms of social mobility. 20% of trade apprentices (for example carpenters, plumbers, electricians) we take on have some form of learning difficulty, but the overwhelming majority complete their qualification with us. The apprenticeship route provides a means to a highly-valued qualification, where other routes are less tailored to help young people with a learning difficulty to overcome these barriers and excel.

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HR Grapevine | Executive Grapevine International Ltd
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HR Grapevine | Executive Grapevine International Ltd

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