Training could be written in to public sector procurement strategies

Government is considering new rules that could force contractors to invest in apprentice training if they are to win public sector contracts.

Public sector procurement has not been sufficiently focused in the past on vocational education and skills, according to Kevin Brennan, Minister of State for Further Education, Apprenticeship Skills and Consumer Affairs at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

“It is a myth that the Government is unable to do anything about procurement because of EU rules,” said Brennan. “We can insist on training being a condition of engagement on public sector contracts,” he told an audience at this year’s Annual Luncheon of the All Party Parliamentary Building Services Engineering Group.

The minister said that he was considering new rules which could be built into all future public sector projects, and which would stress the duty on contractors to invest in the training of apprentices.

The present Government had trebled the number of craft apprentices to 225,000, said Brennan – claiming that it had “rescued the apprenticeship scheme”, and promising further to simplify the qualifications system, and to make it more flexible.

In his response on behalf of the industry, Dr Ian Livsey – chairman of sector skills council SummitSkills – stressed that building services engineering must be more effectively represented on many matters of national importance.

“There is no renewables agenda without us,” he told the meeting. “Our sector is absolutely vital for skills development.”