A group of Parliamentarians is urging construction chiefs to tackle the sector’s growing training and apprenticeship crisis.
In a report called No More Lost Generations: Creating Construction Jobs for Young People, the group’s joint-chairman Nick Raynsford MP said: “Construction apprenticeships have plummeted in the past few years. For 2013 the number completing their construction apprenticeship in England fell to 7,280, just half the figure for 2008/09. They are pathetically dismal figures.”
Lord Richard Best, fellow joint-chairman, said: “A concerted effort is needed, led by the major firms and by those who procure construction contracts, to ensure young people brought up in the UK can take advantage of the growing number of jobs in construction.
“Without sufficient skilled home grown staff, employers are once again looking to import labour from other countries – particularly from Eastern Europe. This is not in the longer term interests of either the industry or the country.”
The report follows an inquiry into how more young people can be employed in construction conducted by a commission of Parliamentarians drawn from both houses and the three main parties. The commission found that the drastic fall in apprenticeship training comes at a time when the £100bn-plus construction industry is forecast to need 182,000 more workers in the next five years.
Mr Raynsford said: “There are nearly one million young people not in education, employment and training. We cannot tolerate this continuing mass unemployment when there is such scope for increasing training, apprenticeships and employment in our construction industry.
“Our inquiry set out to identify and examine the barriers standing in the way of the common-sense outcome we want to see – namely, a step change in both the quantity and quality of training and a consequent expansion in employment opportunities for young people seeking work in one of our country’s largest and most important industries.”
No More Lost Generations acknowledges that there is no one single solution and actions will be needed to overturn current attitudes across a number of fronts. Key recommendations are:
- For the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) and the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, with backing from the Construction Leadership Council, to convene a high-level summit with contractors, specialist contractors, house-builders, local authorities and social landlords to get momentum behind Construction Jobs for Young People. This echoes a similar summit for industry leaders back in 2001 on the theme of safety: by raising the profile of that issue, huge progress has been made on construction sites to reduce significantly fatalities and accidents.
- For the CITB to spearhead a new apprenticeship strategy to ensure that training programmes are better linked to the nature of the jobs and reduce the drop-out rate from apprenticeships and other training courses.
- For public bodies and social landlords to use the levers available through public-sector procurement and the planning system to require realistic and effective training and employment commitments from employers. This will require committed support from government, social landlords and local authorities.
- For the sector to improve an understanding in schools of the exciting and varied opportunities for those who want a career in construction and make it easier for young people to find an appropriate route into the industry, whether through apprenticeships or degree-level qualifications, through the creation of a new careers portal.
- The inquiry was supported by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) and the CITB. Its members were the Rt Hon Nick Raynsford, MP (Labour) and Lord Richard Best (Independent). Parliamentarians also comprised of Peter Aldous (Conservative), Annette Brooke (Liberal Democrat) and Baroness Angela Smith (Labour). It was supported by the Construction Youth Trust, Youth Build Trust, Youth Build UK, and The Prince’s Trust. Evidence was obtained from a wide range of those in the industry and from local government, the social housing sector and educational establishments.
Michael Brown, Deputy Chief Executive at the CIOB said: “During the course of the inquiry we saw excellent examples of not for profit and commercial organisations preparing young people for work and proving them with construction skills. The issue we have is one of scale. We need creative leadership to take current best practice and make it available across the industry.”
The report was launched in the Houses of Parliament on 26 February 2014. A full copy of the report can be accessed at – www.ciob.org/youth-unemployment-inquiry.