The Construction Industry Training Board is in talks with the government to create "virtual training firms" that would give young people the chance to work on live construction projects.
The proposal is one of a number that the CITB is considering to tackle the shortage of on-the-job training. At present, thousands of teenagers are failing to complete NVQ qualifications because contractors are offering too few work placements for them.

Peter Lobban, the chief executive of the CITB, said he had outlined his plans to education minister Charles Clarke and trade secretary State Patricia Hewitt. The three discussed the idea at a meeting of Skills Alliance, a body set up to look at industry's training needs.

Lobban said that, at this stage, the training company model had not been fleshed out, but the idea was to have all the stakeholders involved on a construction project involved in the training.

He said the model he had in mind was of a partnership of the main contractor, the client and the specialist subcontractors so young people could experience work in different links of the supply chain.

Lobban said: "The model we are looking at is a virtual training company for the whole of a project. At the moment specialist contractors do not take on trainees as there forward order book may be unstable; this model would allow trainees to work right across a project."