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Plan follows staff shortfall in welfare to work scheme Rapid reaction workforce will tackle shortage

CONTRACTORS are drawing up plans to ship unemployed workers to sites with labour shortages because of fears over the slow take-up in the government's welfare to work scheme.

The Construction Confederation said a government-appointed advisory committee - the New Deal advisory taskforce - is considering moving unemployed northern workers to busy sites in the South.

But training director Jeremy Hawksley warned that the plan would only work if the government found suitable accommodation for workers.

He said the plan could solve potential skill shortages on large projects such as the Millennium Dome.

Mr Hawksley said: 'It can provide help for New Dealers who live too far away from big sites to take up the welfare to work places.'

The confederation is taking action after reports that the number of building workers taking up the government's welfare to work training scheme is likely to be 40 per cent fewer than expected.

Public affairs director Stephen Ratcliffe said that only 6,000 trainees were likely to take up places over the next three years compared with estimates of 10,000.

Mr Ratcliffe said the smaller-than-expected projected take-up was caused by a decline in the number of young people out of work.

He said: 'This should be seen as good news. When the government started the welfare to work scheme there was more unemployment.'

Mr Ratcliffe was speaking at the launch of a scheme aimed at building bosses looking to take on new employees under the programme.

The document, the Construction New Deal scheme, contains advice about conditions of employment for trainees, model contracts, and information about the level of training that should be provided.

Other points include basic health and safety training, and a new 'clearing house', run by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), to let workers find the right placements.

The scheme begins next month and will be expanded nationwide in April. Employers are paid up to £1,700 cash to take on jobless workers for a specified period. Workers are trained in brick-laying, carpentry and joinery, painting and decorating, and general construction work.

A CITB spokesman said: 'We have developed with the confederation a construction specific

approach to the New Deal, which we hope will satisfy anticipated skills shortages by accessing a new source of recruits.'