Construction bodies to draw up proposals to halt the decline in the number of industry professionals.
Government, industry and higher education institutions are teaming up to halt the shrinking number of professionals in the industry.

The Construction Confederation, the Construction Industry Training Board, the Department for Education and Employment, the Construction Industry Council and higher education establishments are working together to draw up a series of proposals to present to minister Nick Raynsford and the minister for lifelong learning, Malcolm Wicks, in May.

The proposals will focus on how to encourage graduates from non-construction disciplines into the sector and on the expansion of work with schoolchildren.

The initiative was launched last Thursday at a CITB conference called "Making Connections", attended by Raynsford and Wicks.

Speaking at the conference, Wicks also announced proposals for a construction industry task group to ensure that the higher education courses offered were serving the needs of industry.

He said: "We urgently need to address the shortage of skilled professionals in construction and this task group will draw together experts from higher education and the industry to tackle the problem." So far, no budget has been fixed for the task group, which will be chaired by the CITB and includes the DETR and the DFFE.

CITB director of training policy Peter Martin said: "It is a massive look at what all parties in higher education are doing to help avert the current professional skills shortage in construction." Officials hope that the introduction of vocational GCSEs in construction-related skills, announced last week, will help alleviate the shortages in the long run. The announcement was welcomed by the Federation of Master Builders, the Construction Confederation and the CITB.

The new vocational programmes for would-be plumbers, carpenters and electricians will be open to children aged 14 to 16 next year.

FMB director-general Ian Davis said: "Our members constantly report difficulties in recruiting plumbers, bricklayers, carpenters and electricians. The value of vocational and technical education has long been overshadowed by the emphasis on academic study.

"These new initiatives will help address the balance and encourage more young people into the industry." Construction Confederation chairman Peter Andrews said: "It is important that these new courses are relevant to the needs of the industry and the many young people who want a career based on vocational and technical skills."