Construction employers have to take total responsibility for skill shortages due to lack of adequate investment in staff, says the GMB.

Only when the employers wake up and own up to their failed years of noninvestment, and invest a real apprenticeship program will we get back on track in the UK, said the union for construction workers in reaction to a report from The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) on skill shortages in the construction industry.

Phil Whitehurst, GMB National Officer said: “Only when the employers wake up and own up to their failed years of noninvestment, and invest a real apprenticeship program will we get back on track in the UK.

Related: Skills gaps and talent drain are growing concerns for UK workers

“For years, the construction industry employers have buried their heads in the sand, way before the deepest recession we have experienced in living memory, they have failed to invest in “real apprenticeships” and opting for past government low wage alternatives, with nothing at the end of the tunnel for those employed in such schemes.

“When the going was good they did not invest, they just chose to pocket the high returns and put nothing back. Unfortunately the horse has now bolted, which has resulted in a massive skills shortage, and now they are looking at any excuse they can to vindicate their position of none investment.

Read more: Government hosts international conference on importance of basic skills

“Sadly, the norm has been on many large infrastructure projects in the UK to use non-UK posted workers, which are more than often, underpaid and exploited, which undercuts the UK construction industry, and propagates a race to the bottom, which GMB has uncovered on numerous sites.

“Bold statements of 100,000 jobs created means nothing, unless they are full time positions on PAYE Class 1 national insurance with full employment rights, but sadly these jobs are reportedly by the very nature of the industry, agency zero-hour contracts, or unscrupulous agencies employing these workers via tax avoidance umbrella companies.”