Vocational training in building came under fire from a report published by the Adult Learning Inspectorate this week.
The report by the inspectorate, which was created in April 2001 to raise the standard of post-school training, said training in construction was poorer than that in engineering or retailing.

The study, based on 40 inspections of construction providers, discovered that many firms, especially in the South, found it hard to recruit enough learners to make programmes viable. It also found that many of those taught had weaknesses in numeracy and literacy.

However, it did praise M&E contractor NG Bailey's training programme, which was the only one deemed outstanding. It said the firm's 481 apprentices in England and Scotland all received good off-the-job training and health and safety education. The report noted: "The retention and achievement rates on its programme were high."

It added that retention rates on apprenticeship programmes were good – 87% on advanced schemes and 76% on foundation schemes were still training after a year. But this was offset by low success rates – only 51% of advanced apprentices and 34% on foundation courses completed their training successfully. Less than half of learners on NVQ courses obtained their qualification.

Some off-the-job training at company training centres was found to be particularly good, benefiting from an open and consultative management style.

The report also criticised the industry's equal opportunity policies. It said: "Few firms promoted equal opportunities adequately."