Government figures show that 30% of firms are employing more apprentices to help through downturn

The construction sector is being urged to take on apprentices, as the Department of Children, Schools and Families releases new figures in support of Apprenticeship Week.

Research carried out by the DCSF showed 15% of employers are hiring more apprentices to help them through the downturn.

A survey was sent out by the department to 92 firms, with 86% of respondents saying they relied on their apprenticeship programme to give them the skilled workers they need for the future. Meanwhile 30% said they had increased the number of apprentices they employ this year.

Apprenticeships minister Lord Young said: “Today's findings show just how well regarded apprenticeships are by employers. They are rightly valued across Britain as a means of providing employers with a well-trained workforce which help their business to succeed. They're about businesses investing in their future, whatever the economic climate.”

In January, prime minister Gordon Brown announced an additional 35,000 new apprenticeship places across the public and private sectors.

The DCSF also added that it was now easier for employers to take on apprentices, “by slashing bureaucracy”. Since January, prospective apprentices have been able to apply online for job vacancies advertised by employers.

Other findings from the survey showed that 75% felt that apprenticeships had resulted in greater staff retention.

Nearly 1,500 apprentices have been lost their jobs since the downturn. The launch of Apprenticeship Week today, comes as Ucatt launched a stinging attack on the sector's key training body, ConstructionSkills.

The construction union have accused the group of proposing apprentices be part-time or self-employed, and said they were seeking an urgent meeting with the secretary of state for innovation, universities and skills John Denham, to convey their concerns.

A spokesperson for ConstructionSkills said the body strongly refuted the accusation.

“In these difficult times for the industry there will continue to be a significant number of apprentices at risk of not completing their training,” said Nigel Donohue, ConstructionSkills apprenticeship manager. “ConstructionSkills is discussing a range of mutually acceptable solutions with government, unions and employers.

“Where apprentices have lost their employer and have three months or less of the apprenticeship remaining, we have agreed with the unions to offer full-time or part-time employment with another firm in order to complete the work-based training, but any placement will have a contract of employment,” he added.