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Apprenticeships plan relies on support for construction

Construction firms have warned that the chancellor’s plans to double adult apprenticeships will be undermined if the industry is crippled by cuts.

The government last week said it would spend up to £250 million creating an extra 75,000 apprenticeships for adults every year by 2014/15.

But with severe cuts to funding for public building projects, industry groups have warned the money could be wasted.

A Federation of Master Builders spokesman said: “It’s all very well talking about apprenticeships but it won’t work unless you help smaller firms. At the moment in construction a lot of people are going out of business so until there is more confidence those apprentices won’t be taken on.”

He said the apprenticeships were vital to avoid a skills shortage in the next few years, and called for more emphasis on promoting construction careers to teenagers.

“There needs to be more joined up thinking so we can keep employers going, giving them the confidence take on an apprentices.”

Geoff Lister, chairman of the Cross-Industry Construction Apprenticeship Task Force, said employers needed convincing the work was there to take on trainees.

“The construction industry has lost over 130,000 jobs this year alone, and more than 3,000 of the industry’s apprentices have been displaced.”

ConstructionSkills training board strategy director Stephen Geary said the announcements marked a change in government thinking.

“I think what we see is a big shift in the balance of funding between the state, the individual and the employer.

“We are moving very much in the direction where the government expects both individuals and employers to invest more in training, and the government will be putting in less.

“Because of that I think we could view the announcements as being a bit skills-light but I think that is because the government is focusing more on unemployed people than on pure skills training.”

The growing retrofit and carbon reduction schemes presented significant opportunities for training in the sector, he said.