I was pleased to hear the announcement from John Healey, the housing minister, that housing associations will be required to employ apprentices (25 September, www.building.co.uk)

Apprenticeships have been an integral part of the delivery programmes of arm’s-length management organisations (almos) since the start of the Decent Homes programme. For many of the UK’s almos and local authorities, social housing projects are not only great opportunities to regenerate local communities, but they also represent a moral obligation to encourage sustainable employment.

The recent downturn will only amplify the construction industry’s skills shortage and to many it would seem unusual that housing associations are not already under an obligation to begin apprenticeship schemes. It is also important to remember this is not a one-way street and taking on local apprentices means that housing associations can gain benefits from their training agendas. These include better skilled and more loyal staff, projects delivered on time and better corporate social responsibility.

All that is needed is a structured approach that is in tune with the construction industry’s needs and those of the local community. In doing so, housing associations can help equip their local workforce with the qualifications they need to start long and productive construction careers.

Simon Parry, head of partnership management, the Sandwell Decent Homes Partnership