Students will be offered GCSEs in construction from next year as the industry steps up its drive to attract young people,

The Construction and the Built Environment GCSE will be launched as a pilot in September 2005 and has been devised by industry training councils SummitSkills and ConstructionSkills in partnership with examination board Edexcel.

The qualification will cover technical occupations such as project management, surveying and civil engineering, alongside training for craft trades. It will enable students to progress to apprenticeships or degree courses on completion of the course.

Sheila Hoile, ConstructionSkills’ director of training, said the course would provide a boost to the number of people entering the industry. She said: “By offering this GCSE as part of the curriculum, it will introduce construction careers to a much broader range of pupils than the industry can currently reach.”

Hoile’s optimism was backed by John Kerr, chief executive of Edexcel. He said: “It is a major achievement for us and the construction industry. I believe this award may go some way to encouraging young people to consider vocational courses from an early age.”

In addition to teaching construction skills, the qualification will incorporate wider issues such as sustainable development and health and safety, which will form part of all practical activities.

Keith Marshall, SummitSkills’ chief executive, said the inclusion of these wider elements was crucial to preparing students for entry to the workplace. He said: “With this award, pupils will acquire an understanding of the challenges facing the sector in the future.”

Pilot centres for the scheme are being selected, with more than 50 schools expected to take part.