New trade body chairman warns of ‘dire skills shortage’ in face of slashed training budgets

The construction industry risks losing a generation of potential employees unless training provision is overhauled to cope with the deepening recession.

The UK Contractors Group (UKCG), launched this week, is to fight for a new approach to provision by training body ConstructionSkills, and plans to make the issue a priority.

The UKCG, which is launched officially on Monday, includes a host of high-profile firms, including Carillion, Balfour Beatty and Mace, as well as the former members of the disbanded Major Contractors Group. It is understood that the initial meetings will centre around ways to implement training funds more effectively.

James Wates, the chairman of the UKGC, founded the group with former Construction Confederation (CC) chief executive Stephen Ratcliffe. He said this week that training would be a priority, alongside campaigning for fair treatment of contractors in the Office of Fair Trading tender malpractice inquiry.

He said: “We want to look at the long-term future of the industry. Pots of [government] money are going to be increasingly difficult to tap into, and if people are not training the future workforce we will have a dire skills shortage in five to 10 years.”

Wates said the group would work with ConstructionSkills to reorganise training provision: “We’ve got to have something beyond what we’ve got now.”

He said the group planned to work with bodies representing SMEs on initiatives such as training He acknowledged that they were unlikely to join the group, partly as a result of a £15,000 membership fee.

The UKCG aims to become the leading voice on industry issues, working in close partnership with the recently created construction council within the CBI.

The launch of the group has caused ructions within the CC as many of its members resigned to join the new body.