Fast-track training scheme set up to raise Britons' skills to match those of departing Poles

Construction of Olympic venues is at risk because of an exodus of skilled Polish workers and a lack of qualified UK workers to replace them, industry figures have warned.

A fast-track training scheme is being implemented to teach construction skills, including electrical contracting, to Britons to remedy the shortage.

The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) and the London Development Agency (LDA) are to spend £20m - 23% of their training budget for London 2012 - in partnership with other organisations on raising the skills of the UK workforce to meet Olympic construction needs.

Construction of the Olympic Stadium and other venues is threatened by a lack of skilled workers.

Iain Macdonald, head of education and training at the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA), told the Times that Britain had become too dependent on a labour force that was now rapidly leaving for more prosperous countries. “You can’t rely on migrant labour. The position of the ECA is that you should have the capacity to generate the skills from the indigenous population.”

However, Andrew Teacher, spokesman for the British Property Federation, told the newspaper that it was likely that British builders who had been laid off because of the economic downturn would move over to fill the skills gap in public building projects.

The Times reports that the training of electricians to work on building the Olympic Village is to be funded by the LDA and the ECA. The programme, which subsidises employer-based training, will enable 1500 workers nationwide to become fully qualified.

Keith Marshall, chief executive of SummitSkills, confirmed to the Times that there was evidence that Polish m&e workers were returning home and that migrants from other parts of eastern Europe were taking their place.

“They don’t seem to be as well trained or have the same work ethic as the Poles; that’s what employers are telling us,” said Marshall. “All the way along we have been arguing that we can’t rely on migrant labour. We have to put in plans for the long term.”