I welcome Jim Murphy’s proposals to create almost 3,000 jobs for young unemployed people across Scotland through the Future Jobs Forum – including in hard-hit sectors such as construction

But they sit uneasily with the tough reality the building industry currently faces, with many firms having to scale back recruitment of apprentices and struggling to retain the ones they have due to a lack of work.

Scottish construction firms recruited almost 5,000 apprentices in 2007. Last year that number fell by a half.

Overall, almost 250,000 jobs depend on the construction industry. That number fell by 8% last year.

If we’re going to help more young people get jobs in construction, much greater frontline support is needed to kick-start the flow of work that will enable building firms to recruit and retain young workers.

If he’s looking for quick wins, Mr Murphy should apply further pressure on his Treasury colleague Mr Darling to cut VAT on home improvements, repair and maintenance as a way of boosting the sector.

The importance of construction to Scotland’s economic recovery must not be underestimated. It’s time to give the industry a major frontline boost or risk missing out on recruiting the next generation of homegrown talent.

Michael Levack, Chief Executive, Scottish Building Federation