Why apprenticeships are a "mess" and a “bureaucratic tangle” says entrepreneur

The national apprenticeship scheme has been described as a “mess” and a “bureaucratic tangle” by an entrepreneur who is helping fund training for young people in the construction industry.

“The Government should be bold enough to scrap it and replace it with tax incentives," says David Jackson about the current apprenticeship scheme.
“The Government should be bold enough to scrap it and replace it with tax incentives," says David Jackson about the current apprenticeship scheme.

David Jackson, chairman and founder of Bridlington-based Hudson Contract, has called on the Government to scrap the current apprenticeship scheme and replace it with tax incentives.

He said: “The Government should be bold enough to scrap it and replace it with tax incentives.

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“If you can get tax relief for research and development and you can get tax relief for plant and equipment, why on earth can’t you get tax relief for employing an apprentice?

Mr Jackson began his own career as an apprentice draughtsman.

“If a Government did that, it would be simple to administer and it would be an accelerant to the number of apprenticeship places that are on offer.

“If they did that, within four or five years they would begin to solve the perceived skills shortage but I don’t suppose they will ever do it because it’s too simple and it would mean killing off a quango or two.”

Hudson Contract, which provides payroll services to the construction industry, was established in 1996 by Mr Jackson.

To mark its 25th anniversary, the Bridlington-based business, which has a turnover of £1.6bn and employs 36 staff, is offering all of its clients use of the firm’s established apprenticeship scheme, where it pays for half the cost of employing an apprentice for the first year.

Hudson Contract has pledged to support 25 apprentices this year. It has so far seen 170 apprentices go through the scheme over the past decade.

Mr Jackson began his own career as an apprentice draughtsman. This led to him entering the construction industry, where he set up his first business in 1987.

He says that apprenticeship opportunities in construction are at a premium in a seaside town like Bridlington. That’s what spurred the initial idea to pay for half of the cost of the first year of employing an apprentice.

The entrepreneur also warned over a potential drive away from freelance status of workers on construction sites. He said: “For construction to function effectively, efficiently and to maintain increasing standards of productivity they must never let go of the value that comes from freelancers.

“There is no better way of ensuring higher productivity than having people step up willing to work for what they produce rather than the time that they put in. There have always been different initiatives to try and get everybody on a building site employed by somebody.

“If that movement was ever allowed to prevail and succeed, construction would have fewer companies in the marketplace, there would be a greater monopoly of a small number of bigger players.”

The Government has been approached for a response.

Hudson proves a prosperous name

The name Hudson Contract comes from the same family that founded the Hudson’s Bay Company in America, David Jackson says.

He added: “Part of that family were landowners just outside of Bridlington - quite a number of those family members were buried in the church next to where I used to live. I thought they prospered under the name so why shouldn’t I? So I kind of borrowed the name.”

As an apprentice draughtsman, Mr Jackon was drawing up and having a hand in the design and manufacture of steel structures and this led to him entering construction.

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James Mitchinson