PASS rates have plummeted at one of the UKs largest construction training centres because firms are not releasing their trainees to do college work.
HND civil engineering trainees and apprentice bricklayers are suffering most and pass rates have dropped by up to half, according to a report by the Further Education Funding Council (FEFC) about Highbury College, in Portsmouth.
It found that the colleges 1,000 construction students are taught to high standards in well-equipped workrooms, but fewer of them are gaining qualifications.
Faculty head Roy Kimble blamed hard-pressed contractors for the drop because they have become reluctant to spare trainees for day release, and often instead allowed only a half-day a week at college.
Also fewer firms than ever are offering work experience.
Mr Kimble said it was hard to attract the best school leavers, because they do not think the industry offers them a secure future.
FEFC inspectors found that only 50 per cent of
students passed the BTEC national diploma in construction last year, while 70 per cent had passed in the early 1990s.
And pass rates on the HNC in civil engineering fell by more than half from 93 per cent in 1991 to 44 per cent last year, though the HNC in building had retained its 95 per cent pass rates.
Pass rates were high in carpentry and plastering, but had fallen to 30 per cent in bricklaying in 1993.