New taskforce pledges to help 14,000 trainees over the next four years to tackle skills crisis

Contractors, unions and trade bodies have formed a taskforce aimed at doubling the number of construction apprenticeships to 14,000 before 2012.

The Cross-Industry Task Force on Apprenticeship Numbers has been set up in the wake of damning statistics published in September showing the number of apprenticeships offered by construction firms had dropped 25% since last year.

The group, which met for the first time on Monday, is chaired by Geoff Lister, president of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB). Twelve industry bodies are represented including the T&G side of the Unite union, the National Federation of Roofing Contractors, and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.

Lister told the group that only 4% of the industry’s 185,000 companies employ a construction skills apprentice. He said: “There are hundreds of potential apprentices on full-time courses that need employers to give them a chance of a full qualification.”

David Lammy, the skills minister, called on employers to ensure an apprenticeship place was available for those who needed one. The launch of the taskforce came as the prime minister announced the Olympic site would become a National Skills Academy for construction. Gordon Brown said: “The academy will have 1,000 job placements for people enrolled on local further education courses in construction. There will be training placements for local people, and more than 500 apprenticeship places.”

Meanwhile, the CITB levy threshold has risen by more than 4%. Companies whose wage bill is higher than £76,000 will pay the levy, which remains unchanged for the sixth year in succession at 0.5% for the directly employed and 1.5% for labour-only subcontractors.