Senior officials consider making apprenticeships mandatory on all publicly funded projects

Government officials have held an emergency private summit with construction leaders to thrash out a way to stem the tide of apprentices forced out of the industry by the recession.

One measure under discussion is thought to be the possibility of making it mandatory to offer apprenticeships on all public sector construction projects – whether run by local authorities or central government.

More than 600 apprentices in the building industry have been made redundant in the past six months, and experts predict that figure could top 1,000 this year.

It is understood that last Friday senior civil servants met industry leaders including James Wates, chairman of the UK Contractors Group, Mark Farrar, chief executive of ConstructionSkills, and union bosses to discuss this and other proposals.

The move comes a fortnight after skills secretary John Denham and children, schools and families secretary Ed Balls announced the government’s intention to increase apprenticeships by 35,000 across the public and private sectors.

At that time, Balls said: “The government will use the huge leverage available to it through public procurement to promote skills and apprenticeships.”

The proposal would apply to all local authority as well as central government work

It also follows the £500m jobs stimulus package the government revealed last week and a decision by the Olympic Delivery Authority to create an extra 250 apprenticeship places, on top of the 2,000 already pledged.

The government is under pressure to address the present job shortage and the skills gap that could emerge if apprentices are not kept on. It is understood that funding for public sector work is being increasingly linked to the number of jobs created.

The Learning and Skills Council, which operates the £5bn college building programme that is struggling with funding, is understood to be calculating how many jobs would be created by an acceleration of funding, to aid its negotiations with government.

Meanwhile, unemployed workers from sectors including construction were expected to hold a demonstration at a power station construction site in Staythorpe, Nottinghamshire, this week, protesting against the lack of UK workers on the site.

Energy giant Alstom is allegedly refusing to insist its Spanish subcontractors Montpressa and FMM employ any UK workers in manual jobs.