Conservatives also unveil 30 more towns in line for levelling up cash as main parties continue election campaigning

Construction firms would have more flexibility on how to use apprenticeship funds under a Labour government if the party wins the 4 July election.

Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson said companies could use up to half of the cash provided by government to train existing staff in “high level technical skills” such as retrofitting or engineering.

They could also offer “pre-apprenticeship training” courses to prepare people for full apprenticeships or jobs.

Carillion apprentices

Labour would allow firms to spend up to half of apprenticeships funds on training existing staff

Firms are currently handed funds for apprenticeships raised through taxes and a levy paid by businesses with an annual wage bill of more than £3m.

At least half of this money would still be reserved for apprenticeships under Labour’s plans for the new “growth and skills levy”.

>> See also: ‘I’d recommend it to anyone’: views on why an apprenticeship is better than university

>> General election 2024: who will get your vote?

The party said any courses offered would need to be from an approved list of skills and not on internal training such as HR or health and safety.

Phillipson said Labour will “put businesses in the driving seat of creating the opportunities people need to get on in work”.

But the Conservatives, which last week outlined plans to fund more apprenticeships by scrapping “poor quality” university courses, said Labour’s proposal was “ill thought through”.

Labour has also pledged to clamp down on net migration by reducing the need of UK businesses to hire overseas workers.

The party said over the weekend it would pass a new law to force different parts of the government to draw up skills improvement plans in high-migration sectors, including construction.

>> See also: Election focus 2024: policy tracker

Labour would also lengthen how long firms can be banned from hiring foreign workers if they breach employment law, such as by paying below the minimum wage.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives have unveiled 30 new towns set to receive £20m each in levelling up cash over the next 10 years.

The towns, mainly based in the Midlands and the North, are the latest tranche of a £1bn levelling up programme announced by Rishi Sunak in September last year.

They include Tamworth, Preston, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Corby, Halifax, Bognor Regis, Newtown, Flint, Perth and Newry.

The Conservatives said local people in each town would decide how the money is spent through new town boards composed of community leaders, business people, councils and the local MP.

Election focus

With the UK set for a general election on 4 July, the country is facing some serious problems.

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Low growth, flatlining productivity, question marks over net zero funding and capability, skills shortages and a worsening housing crisis all amount to a daunting in-tray for the next government.

This year’s general election therefore has very high stakes for the built environment and the economy as a whole. For this reason,

Building’s election coverage aims to help the industry understand the issues and amplify construction’s voice so that the parties hears it loud and clear.