The skills shortage in the construction industry is a crisis with far-reaching implications (13 May, page 14).

However, it is not lack of interest from people, especially women, in construction-related careers that prevents recruitment but a serious lack of opportunity.

Research conducted at the Women in Plumbing Group annual conference in November 2004 suggests that a lack of course places, work experience, on-the-job training and apprenticeships are the biggest barrier to entry – 82% of respondents cited this as the main obstacle. Put simply, even if you want to become a plumber, the chances are you will struggle to find someone prepared to train you – especially if you are female.

The main reason so few plumbing companies offer training is that often as soon as the trainee is qualified they leave to set up on their own, thereby providing a negative return on the training investment.

Nearly 60% of the women we surveyed believed funding and incentives for companies to provide training and/or apprenticeships would be the most effective solution.

I support this view and think the government needs to weigh up the cost of helping to find training against the cost of not achieving its decent homes targets or resolving the housing shortage.

Adrian Barden, managing director, Wolseley UK, sponsors of the Women in Plumbing Group