LONDON contractors are calling on CITB-ConstructionSkills to overhaul its carpentry apprenticeships to help candidates achieve wider-ranging skills.
The Building Crafts College in Stratford, east London, and 12 local businesses have formed a forum to push for a combined qualification to train apprentices in both site carpentry and bench joinery.
CITB-ConstructionSkills currently offers apprenticeship frameworks in the two separate disciplines.
But bench joiners often struggle to achieve an NVQ for the apprenticeship due to a lack of on-site work experience.
Site carpenters can achieve the NVQ but are often considered by the industry to lack the hand skills of a bench joiner.
BCC chief instructor Dave Pearham said: 'We want site carpentry and bench joinery to be combined into one framework to get more rounded skills.
'We're being told by the CITB that the current curriculum is written by the bigger companies in the industry and they are the ones who want this separation. But they are not the type of companies which take on apprentices.
'I've seen some site carpenters used on jobs practically as installers. The smaller employers need a wider range of skills - if they don't get them eventually it will be uneconom ical to take on apprent ices.'
A CITB spokesman said: 'They are kept as separate disciplines to ref lect industry need. In a real work environment bench joinery tends to take place off-site in a workshop, while site carpentry involves more installation work and therefore requires more time spent on-site to build the necessary experience.'
Small firms also said low financial support for apprentices - who often cost businesses money in their first year - also made it difficult for companies to take them on.
Frances Watkins, of Essex firm RW Carpenters, said: 'We are a small firm, but we have taken on four apprentices this year and the CITB has said we are the largest provider of carpentry apprenticeships in the south-east, which is a joke.
'A lot of people are leaving the industry.
If we don't do something soon, there won't be any apprenticeships left.'