Construction is one of five sectors singled out for training overhaul to raise output of workers.
The Labour party intends to take measures to end the skills crisis in the construction industry if it is elected next month.

The party says it will tackle the problem by targeting people in their 20s and 30s through the New Deal scheme, which was originally designed for younger workers.

The Department for Education and Employment had begun a feasibility study, entitled Ambition Construction, to assess training needs before the election was called.

The government had also been working with the Construction Industry Training Board on the main aims of such a scheme.

The New Deal has until now failed to train enough construction workers, with only 17,000 trained since the scheme began in February 1998, a massive shortfall on what is required each year.

The new scheme is believed to be more employer-led and will focus on measures to retrain older employees and get them into better paid jobs, although school leavers will also be catered for.

Labour intends to extend the six-month training period of the New Deal to give workers more on-site training, rather than insisting on academic attainment.

If the party is re-elected, a proposal for the scheme is due to go to chancellor Gordon Brown for approval next month.

We welcome the commitment to equipping the unemployed with the tailored skills that our research shows the industry needs

Hugh Try, Construction Industry Training Board chairman

CITB chairman Hugh Try praised Labour for focusing on construction's skills crisis.

Try said: "We welcome the commitment to equipping the long-term unemployed with the tailored skills that the construction industry needs.

The CITB's research shows that we need 74,000 new recruits each year for the next five years, and New Dealers could make an important contribution to filling these places."

The Ambition Construction project forms part of a wider strategy that the party unveiled on Monday when it revealed its manifesto commitments. Other sectors to benefit from focused skills campaigns are retail, IT, financial services and gas.

A Labour insider said it was unclear whether the New Deal would still exist in its present form if the party won the election. He said the New Deal tag could be replaced by the Ambition slogan, the focus of the Labour manifesto.

The insider added: "If the New Deal is part of the next parliament, then it is likely that Ambition Construction will ride on the back of it. But it is unclear what the future of the New Deal will be, so the new initiative may well stand alone as a sole body."

History of the new deal

February 1998
Construction minister Nick Raynsford and employment minister Andrew Smith launch the New Deal with the Construction Confederation March 1998
The government cuts the paperwork May 1998
The Construction Industry Training Board, in partnership with contractors and unions, sets up the Construction Apprenticeship Scheme as a rival to the New Deal November 1999
Gordon Brown says the New Deal scheme will be extended to workers older than 25 Jan 2000
Porter Builders, the firm founded by the man who launched the initiative, ceases trading May 2001
Labour unveils plan for Ambition Construction