Union wants to force contractors on government projects to hire set number of apprentices

Contractors on government projects should be forced to employ a set number of apprentices, construction union Ucatt has urged.

In a damning report out today, the organisation said the industry had “totally failed” to recruit enough apprentices and called for direct government intervention.

ConstructionSkills found places for just 8,500 young people last year, despite 45,000 applying for places and the construction industry needing more than 88,000 recruits annually, it said.

The report, "Apprenticeships – A Firm Foundation", said a system of “contract compliance” should be rolled out in the public sector, with firms that fail to recruit enough apprentices being frozen out of work.

Alan Ritchie, general secretary of Ucatt, said: “The government has established ambitious targets to promote apprenticeships. What we now need is joined-up thinking between departments in order to ensure that apprentices are recruited on all government projects.”

The report, which will be presented to MPs at the House of Commons today, said a long-term recruitment failure had resulted in an elderly workforce which was nearing retirement age.

It lambasted employers for failing to take long-term decisions and was also highly critical of programme-led apprenticeships, whereby the first year or two is spent in the classroom rather than on site.

Ritchie added: “The very idea of programme-led apprentices corrupts the whole notion of apprenticeships. They are vocational work-based schemes where young workers learn by working beside more experienced colleagues.”