Head of Newham apprentice provider fears for its future after cuts to funding

Stone masonry students. Picture: Ken Mears

Stone masonry students. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

The head of one of Newham’s largest apprenticeship providers is worried about his ability to provide adult courses and apprenticeships, with government funding due to run out in September.

Stone masonry students. Picture: Ken Mears

Stone masonry students. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

Tim Martin, 60, is the bursar of the Building and Crafts College in Stratford, which provides apprenticeships, adult education courses (19-25-year-olds) and school leavers programmes in joinery, stone masonry and construction.

In autumn last year, the college missed out on funding for its adult education programme and non-levy apprenticeship courses (which are 90 per cent government subsidised).

“Money is the oil that keeps this wheel turning, and we are facing a big financial challenge,” he said.

“It runs out in three weeks time, and from September 2019, we’ll have no government funding for adult training and non-levy apprenticeships. That matters because 80 per cent of the construction industry and 100 per cent of the stonemasonry industry are non-levy learners.”

Stone masonry students. Picture: Ken Mears

Stone masonry students. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant


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The college, in the shadow of the Carpenter’s Estate, trains around 500 students each year, and Mr Martin insists it plays a huge social role in Newham.

“The college started in the Victorian times as a way for people from an impoverished east end to learn a trade, get a job and move up in the world – we still carry that ethos,” he said.

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“It’s all about jobs. If you can give people a trade, they will always have a job. If you’re at the bottom of the social pile, because you come from difficult home circumstances, have been involved with crime, or struggled academically, you may get forgotten about. We help those people.”

Mr Martin said the college frequently deals with issues of youth offending, drugs, and ocassionally gang culture. But he’s also seen how gaining a qualification can change the life of someone from a disadvantaged background.

Stone masonry students. Picture: Ken Mears

Stone masonry students. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

“We’re of a mindset to give people a rounded education, not just training, because that’s what people need to cope with challenges in life,” he said.

“There’s a crying need for this in Newham because there’s a significant number who have already run foul of the law at a young age. What we aim to do is put as much of a social wrapper around young people as possible.”

The college has a huge focus on jobs and maintains relationships with various employers, from sole traders to huge firms. While the 16-18 school leavers course is entirely based in the college, apprenticeship courses involve three days a week working, with just two days a week training, to equip them with some career experience.

“The apprenticeship scheme is by far the best way to train people for the construction industry as it combines workplace training with skills and a qualification,” Mr Martin said.

Stone masonry students. Picture: Ken Mears

Stone masonry students. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

“Employers come to us because we can guarantee a qualification – our success rate on courses is about 96 per cent.”

Despite the end to government funding for two of his courses, Mr Martin can’t bring himself to criticise the decision-makers.

“I think the government are doing the best they can,” he admitted.

“They committed themselves to a target of three million apprenticeships by 2020. They’re looking across Europe and seeing apprentice models where vocational subjects are seen as the premier – like in Germany.

Stone masonry students. Picture: Ken Mears

Stone masonry students. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

“But there are huge challenges in a sector that has historically been underfunded. Nationally, there are about 10 to 15 big further education colleges that are in special measures, and very few which make a profit. Brexit is becoming all-consuming which means, understandably, there’s not the time nor effort to address this issue.”

And while he acknowledged that Brexit should be a priority, Mr Martin argued the two subjects aren’t mutually exclusive.

“Because of people leaving as a result of Brexit and an ageing workforce, there’s not going to be enough people in the construction industry to meet ambitious targets for housing,” he said.

“There’s going to be a requirement for more and more apprentices to fill the gap, and at the moment, we can’t train people fast enough or in big enough quantities to do that.”

Tim Martin, Bursar of the Building Crafts College in Stratford.

Tim Martin, Bursar of the Building Crafts College in Stratford. - Credit: Archant

Tim Martin, Bursar of the Building Crafts College in Stratford.

Tim Martin, Bursar of the Building Crafts College in Stratford. - Credit: Archant

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