Students completing National Vocational Qualification courses in construction will be guaranteed work placements in the industry, under a joint initiative between employers and training body CITB-ConstructionSkills

The scheme was announced as part of a CITB sector skills agreement, officially launched by education secretary Ruth Kelly at Heathrow Terminal 5 on Tuesday.

The agreement outlines a series of arrangements between the training body, employers and government departments to improve skills.

The announcements came as the government published a white paper on skills, in which it said it would use sector skills agreements to allow employers to decide training needs.

The sector skills NVQ plans will solve the lack of practical experience offered to students, which has led to many failing to complete qualifications. The plans have been devised in partnership with the major contractors. The details of the scheme will be finalised over the next few months but every student leaving a college-based NVQ course will be placed with an employer in the industry to acquire practical skills.

“Improving our national skills base must be a joint endeavour between government, employers, trade unions, universities, colleges and other training providers,” said Kelly.

The agreement also includes plans to raise the number of apprenticeship completions from 3000 to 13,000 each year by offering more placements.

The industry needs to understand that now we have to deliver

Frazer Clement of CITB-ConstructionSkills

Frazer Clement, CITB’s business services director, insisted that the plans were feasible if the major contractors could involve supply chains. He said: “The major contractors are saying that, if we work with employers in the supply chain, we should be able to manage.”

Other initiatives in the skills agreement include plans for programmes for immigrant workers and for the CITB to act as a broker in helping small and medium-sized firms (SMEs) hire suitable business services companies. This is part of a target to increase the spending on SMEs 300%.

Clement said: “The industry needs to understand that the sector skills agreement is making a good sales pitch to government – now we have to deliver on targets.”

The white paper, presented at Number 11 on Tuesday, outlines a government commitment to allow employers to determine the direction of publicly funded skills training. The paper also outlines proposals for establishing national skills academies across industry. Clement said the CITB was in discussions with the government over giving the National Construction College skills academy status.