Skills Minister John Hayes has unveiled plans for an industry kite-mark scheme to allow government to identify employers that have skills and training opportunities such as apprenticeships. This could then be used as a criterion in the decision process for awarding government construction contracts.
CITB-ConstructionSkills employer services director Mike Bialyj said that the announcement was "an important first step in addressing the vital role the public sector has to play in bringing talented new-blood into our industry to support the recovery."
He added: "Construction will need 200,000 new recruits in the industry (43,000 a year) to support a 6.2% increase in growth in construction output by 2015. Unless we act now we will not have the right skills and knowledge in place for economic growth locally and nationally.
"There are a number of ways we are trying address the skills deficit caused by the recession. We will be paying out in excess of £300m in apprenticeship support grand funding to the construction industry over the next five years."
The announcement from Mr Hayes came after Shadow business secretary John Denham challenged him on current apprenticeship requirements on public works contracts and urged the government to do more to incentivise employers to take on an apprentice.
Labour's 'Jobs for Contracts' plan requires companies to have apprenticeship schemes to qualify for government contracts but Mr Hayes said small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) could be unfairly penalised if it was mandatory for them to offer apprenticeships, as SMEs have less capacity to take trainees on.
Apprenticeship starts in construction were down by 12% in England last year, according to CITB-ConstructionSkills. This issue is being compounded by an ageing construction workforce; with recent research from the skills body showing that the number of workers in the construction industry aged 24 or under has dropped from one in five in 1990 to one in 10 today.