Revamp of job placement scheme will shift focus to training and recruiting older people.
The government is set to tackle construction's skills crisis by revamping its New Deal for the construction industry next month.

A scheme is planned to replace and improve on the government's flagship New Deal programme, which offers jobs through training placements.

The drive will concentrate on attracting people in their 20s to the industry, and is expected to be launched during National Construction Week on 15 to 21 October. It will be up and running by the start of next year.

The old New Deal has failed to provide enough construction workers: only 17,000 have been trained since the scheme began in February 1998, a massive shortfall on what is required.

A government study entitled Ambition Construction was carried out over the summer to assess industry training needs. This backed increased funding for a new scheme, but the amount to be invested is not yet known. The study concluded that funding should be targeted at the early stages of placements to ensure that students completed the programme.

The scheme has been developed in conjunction with the Construction Industry Training Board, which aims to recruit 74,000 people a year over the next five years. As well as offering unemployed older people the opportunity to learn a trade, it will train existing employees into better jobs.

CITB national training officer Andrew Wooton said the idea was to have a host agent to oversee the project and to mentor placement students through the programme.

It is understood the government will also put out a tender to run the scheme, which is likely to be won by either an independent training adviser, a further education college or a construction firm.

Wooton said if the programme was run by an external body, it would have to be one that had experience and was capable of mentoring students through the scheme.

He said: "The scheme would encourage new recruits and existing older employees to work towards being qualified to at least NVQ level II."

It was announced that construction was to be one of five sectors singled out for a training overhaul during Labour's election campaign in June.

Other sectors expected to benefit from focused training campaigns are retail, IT, financial services and gas.