Traditionally, training workers to NVQ level has meant adapting to an inflexible college timetable only to have them learning very generalised subjects. But now firms are training staff on site — and it's proving much more efficient
For construction workers, attaining a qualification can prove problematic without taking large amounts of time off work. One possible answer is to qualify on the job.

On-site training is especially useful for smaller companies, who can tailor the courses to suit their needs. And with CSCS cards becoming an industry norm, it's something that all companies are going to need to look into in the coming years.

The Learning and Skills Council is aiming to get 10,000 construction workers qualified at NVQ level two by October, and it estimates that between 500,000 and 900,000 construction workers need NVQ training by 2010 to meet industry targets. "It's a considerable step forwards from where we are now," admits Stephen Lilley, sector strategy manager for construction at the Learning and Skills Council. "The initial 10,000 barely scratches the surface."

But the council has made a good start.

In this case, there is such thing as a free lunch – if you really commit to it

Gordon Harris, Advanced Roofing

"We've currently got more than 8000 people on the programme, and we're hoping to have 10,000 by the end of this month," Lilley says. "Fifteen hundred people will have gained their NVQs by the summer and we should reach our target this autumn." So how does the on-site NVQ work? Completing the training takes three to six months, and there is no need to go off site at all. Individuals can sign up for it, but their company must agree to allow the assessor to come on site, so undertaking the training requires co-operation from employers. The employer, rather than the employee, is responsible for covering some of the costs so they need to be committed to it.

So what are those costs? The employer is expected to contribute 25%, but the Construction Industry Training Board will cover this for any company that pays the CITB levy. The LSC provides £800 per NVQ2 candidate, and £1000 per NVQ3 candidate. The candidate pays nothing at all themselves.

We’re pitching schemes at people who would never normally enter construction, and when they get involved they really grow in confidence

Nev Wells, Whitefriars Housing

Lilley says that small companies in particular should look into the training scheme: "There's minimum adverse effect on productivity so this is particularly good for small companies who don't have the manpower capacity to free up staff, as the big companies can. We recognise the difficulty in terms of engaging with small companies. The costs of providing training are higher because they don't benefit from economies of scale. So we have a small employer uplift factor." This gives 10% more funding to companies with less than 50 employees.