To ensure the survival of quality apprenticeship training for the joinery industry, a new Centre of Excellence network of colleges and training providers has been launched by the British Woodworking Federation (BWF).

The pilot scheme aims to work closely with colleges and training providers that are committed to delivering the highest quality apprenticeship training. As well as covering joinery and woodworking, a joint initiative with the National Association of Shopfitters (NAS) will also ensure pan-sector provision for the interior fit-out and shopfitting industries.

The creation of the network is in response to the industry’s call for improved apprenticeship training which is flexible for employers and fit for purpose. It is also a response to the serious threat to apprenticeships in many wood trades where, since the Government’s decision to implement an apprenticeship levy across the economy, they are fighting competition for college space with other occupations.

Four training providers have committed to the pilot: Building Crafts College (Stratford, London), Didac Limited (Bristol), Leeds College of Building (Leeds), and NPTC Group (South Wales).

Each apprentice working with these providers will be on a nationally recognised apprenticeship framework and will have the option of bolting on additional modules needed for their training to meet employer needs, which will be packaged together as a BWF/NAS Apprenticeship, raising the bar on Government requirements.

Dave Campbell, membership and training director at the BWF says: “The Centre of Excellence concept gives the industry the opportunity to access high quality and flexible training. We’ve selected these centres as part of the pilot as they have actively engaged with us and employers to ensure they deliver the skills employers want and need.

“Over the coming months we’ll be honing the Centre of Excellence concept to ensure it delivers for employers, apprentices and providers and will look to expand the network with like-minded colleges and training providers that want to deliver for the industry.”

Robert Hudson, director of NAS, says: “We are committed to getting the best training for our industry apprentices, and it’s fantastic that we already have four providers that really want to engage with employers to provide a bespoke training solution that shopfitting and joinery has long sought from further education providers.

“We look forward to expanding the network, informed by our research on both the demand and supply of apprenticeships in our sector, to ensure we get quality provision across the UK.”

Each centre has agreed to be audited to ensure that they meet a number of requirements including providing a flexible approach to content, providing impartial advice to employers and apprentices and promoting and contributing to the industry’s efforts to bring in more new entrants and promote continuous professional development.

The pilot scheme is being supported by CITB. This includes funding to support a research exercise to map the demand for joinery apprenticeships and the level of supply currently available, the results of which will inform the second phase of expansion for further centres across the UK.