Apprenticeships: Addressing the Skills Challenge in a Cost of Living Crisis

Apprenticeships: Addressing the Skills Challenge in a Cost of Living Crisis

At Martin Arnold we continue to value staff training and development. We currently employ 9 apprentices who are at varying stages of their qualification, with 4 new apprentices expected to join us this year, making up nearly 10% of the Practice’s team.

The number of university attendees has gradually increased since the 1990s, with applicant numbers reaching a record high between 2020 and 2022. However, with the rising expense of attending university and increases in the cost of living, many students are reconsidering whether to take up a full-time higher education course, as for a large number of students they simply won’t have enough money to support themselves. Many will be expected to rely on a parental contribution which, in the current cost of living crisis, may not be a viable option.

Earlier this year, the Government announced the introduction of Plan 5 loans to increase the number of students able to clear all of the debt incurred through their degrees from 23% to 52%. Under the new plan, the current repayment threshold is being lowered meaning students will start paying back their loans when their income is comparatively lower than the generations of students before them. The repayment time has also been extended from 30 to 40 years.

However, there is hope for those wanting to gain a university qualification. Apprenticeship schemes enable students to spend several days a week working and 1 or 2 days at university, studying. Martin Arnold are a levy payer, meaning the government pays the majority of the apprenticeship costs and we contribute the remainder.

For apprentices such as our own Will Stone, the apprenticeship programme offers the opportunity to gain valuable practical experience whilst studying. Additionally, Will won’t incur the financial burden of having university fees.

Will is currently enrolled on a BSc (Hons) in Chartered Surveying at London South Bank University, where he spends 1 day a week, during term time. For the other 4 days, Will is based in our office or on-site, taking on live project work. Outside of term-time, Will focuses on areas of learning he is weaker in which are identified during meetings with his Apprenticeship Reviewer, giving him the opportunity to improve his skills ahead of submitting coursework.

Reflecting on his experience as an apprentice, Will says: “One of the projects I was involved in, a refurbishment scheme for a housing association, provided me with a great opportunity to see the topics I was learning in my degree in a practical context. This allowed me to better understand elements that may have been less clear when briefly discussed in a lecture. For example, in my module ‘Construction and Property Law’, I learned the basics of party wall matters, allowing me to advise the site team to avoid works to certain party walls without prior approval, avoiding legal issues for our client. Similarly, in the ‘Property Inspection, Repair and Maintenance’ module, we learned to identify numerous forms of cracks. From this, I could highlight areas of concern to the site team when inspecting the external elevations, and then see how these are made good in later visits”.

As an organisation, we have recognised the value of these apprenticeships both for our students and for us as an employer. Students are able to gain applicable skills whilst they earn and benefit from being surrounded by a cohort of other students who they can lean on throughout their course. We also ensure students are properly supported by more senior members of the practice who will regularly check in with them to ensure they are getting good exposure to a range of projects and that they have an opportunity to focus on areas they are weaker in.

For Martin Arnold, we benefit by employing a number of talented people who often go on to have long and successful careers with us. In fact, 70% of our Directors and 50% of our Associates joined the business at Graduate or Apprentice level and have progressed to lead, develop, and grow Martin Arnold into the established business today.

To find out more about training and apprenticeships at Martin Arnold, click here.