Apprenticeships are key to a future-proof workforce

How do we make the built environment industry more accessible and attractive for people to enter, while ensuring we have a skilled future-ready workforce? Apprenticeships.

  • 3 Feb 2023
  • by
  • Lucille Watkins Brazier, Head of Social Impact, Europe

This National Apprenticeship Week we’re celebrating the talent and value that apprenticeships bring to the built environment sector.

The industry faces a well-known skills gap, where there simply aren’t enough qualified people available to meet existing and future building demands. The latest Construction Skills Network report predicted an additional 225,000 workers will be needed to meet UK construction demand by 20271.

As a developer and contractor, we recognise the urgent need to attract more people into the industry and equip the workforce with modern skills that will enable a green, smart and productive built environment to flourish.   

Apprenticeships provide a fantastic route to achieving this.

Getting more people into construction careers

At Lendlease Europe, delivering apprenticeships forms part of our approach to creating social value for communities we work in.

With an ‘earn while you learn’ model, they offer an attractive pathway into employment for school leavers without the means or desire of going into traditional higher education.

We work closely with our supply chain contractors to make sure our projects offer a significant number of apprenticeship opportunities for local people across a range of trades and occupations. In the last 12 months, we’ve had over 800 apprentices working on our project sites in the UK.

In Manchester, we’ve created over 100 apprenticeships so far at the iconic Town Hall restoration project. This is providing the unique chance for people to gain specialist heritage skills, qualifications and experience in conservation work, a craft that is sought after in the industry.

But apprenticeships aren’t just limited to vocational jobs on our construction sites. We currently employ over 40 higher and degree level apprentices internally too. This provides an alternative route into a professional career for school leavers, mature students and those looking for a career change; enabling them to complete a degree while being in full-time employment at a decent wage.

Maddie Piper (pictured above) entered the world of work through a degree apprenticeship at Lendlease. Now in her fourth year working as an Assistant Construction Manager alongside studying Construction Management at the University of Westminster, Maddie shows how apprenticeships can help young people to hit the ground running straight from school. Testament to her successful career start supporting the construction of a 50-storey tower in the City of London, 8 Bishopsgate, Maddie won the Global Young Achiever of the Year Award at Lendlease’s Employee Excellence Awards in 2022.

Engaging the future workforce must start early

It’s important that we actively inspire school and college students to pursue opportunities, like apprenticeships in construction. We want to fill the candidate pool with talented, diverse people, but outdated stereotypes still exist, and many are unaware of the varied and exciting career paths available.

As the developer of two major urban projects in East London, IQL and Silvertown, we have partnered with OpenCity’s Accelerate programme to help support young people (aged 16-18) from under-represented backgrounds in the London Borough of Newham to get into a career in the built environment sector. Equipping them with the skills, portfolios, networks and the conīŦdence to make informed career choices.

Upskilling the existing workforce

Apprenticeships aren’t just for school-leavers, they also provide career development opportunities for existing employees at all levels. As the built environment industry evolves, apprenticeships can help retrain staff with the latest skills and knowledge required for a role.

We know that access to quality learning opportunities helps to retain staff, and with Government incentives in place to support training costs, apprenticeships in the built environment industry are a win-win all around. 

Supporting SMEs to take on talented apprentices

We strive to help local economies prosper wherever we can, which is why we take part in the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) Apprenticeship Levy Transfer Scheme. This is where large employers, like Lendlease, who pay the Government’s apprenticeship levy can fund apprenticeship training costs for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by donating their unused levy funds to the WMCA rather than see it underutilised.

So far, we have supported 10 SMEs in the West Midlands that may not have otherwise been able to cover the costs of training, thus enabling them to benefit from increased productivity and innovation that comes with taking on apprentices. The WMCA’s innovative scheme has so far supported more than 3,000 people across the region into work.

Hope is on the horizon for a futureproof workforce

With a promising rise in construction apprenticeships reported after years of decline2, I hope to see this trend continue as more companies, like Lendlease, work to close the skills gap through driving high quality learning, skills and employment opportunities.


1 CITB, CSN Industry Outlook - 2023-2027.

2 Construction News: Apprenticeship numbers rise for first time in six years.