CARILLION was the major beneficiary of grant cash from the Construction Industry Training Board last year.
Figures from the board's latest accounts show Carillion and Henry Boot received the largest training grant payouts.
But both firms' figures were boosted by the fact that they are managing agencies for Construction Industry Training Centres, giving them access to higher levels of new entrant training grants.
Barratt received more cash than any other house builder and the firm has more than 400 apprentices on sites nationwide.
Chief executive David Pretty said: 'The number of 16 to 24year-olds joining the house building industry - including subcontractors - has declined sharply over the past 10 years.
'This is having a damaging effect on recruitment, especially in the south.
'We are not immune from these difficulties, but having the foresight to invest in training is now paying big dividends.'
The company also has a graduate trainee scheme and expects to have 50 university leavers on board by the end of the year.
CITB grant beneficiaries
Carillion 3,065 Henry Boot 905 Barratt 804 Amec 783 Ballast 739 Kier 611 Balfour Beatty 563 Mowlem 539 Morgan Est 469 M J Gleeson 448 Recipient £'000 Morrison 446 R G Carter 431 Alfred McAlpine 401 Interserve 399 Wates 376 Persimmon 364 Sir Robert McAlpine 358 Laing O'Rourke 328 Bovis Lend Lease 288 Edmund Nuttall 286