Panic and short-termism could cripple the UK’s construction industry in years to come unless it looks beyond the credit crunch and continues to invest in skill development during the downturn.

The skills shortage in the industry has been a source of frustration for firms of all sizes for years. The problem is that many of them are unwilling to do anything about it. As a result, apprentices are queuing up for practical experience to complete their NVQs but few firms are willing to take them on.

Although there is a financial commitment to taking on apprentices, and it is understandable that firms are nervous about spending at this time, if they do they will reap the rewards further down the line.

The placement of apprentices is one of the founding goals of our construction division, but with only 4% of companies taking them and five candidates chasing every opportunity, it will not be easy.

Our role as a specialist recruiter is to ensure we have the best candidates on our books and to recommend the apprentice route to clients only when it is the best fit for them. Part of that is to look at each firm’s long-term business plan and recruitment strategy, and, I believe, in that context, many will start to see the real benefits of creating more apprenticeship opportunities.