Industry blocks seasonal migrant worker scheme and presses for more government funding to train over-25s.
The industry has urged the government to pledge funds to train UK workers before creating a scheme to encourage foreign labour to enter the market.

The Construction Industry Training Board and the Construction Confederation are pressing for funds to attract more school leavers and unemployed over-25s to join the industry.

At a summit last Wednesday on government plans to set up a migrant worker scheme, first revealed in Building earlier this month, the CITB and the confederation both pressed for more attention to be given to UK citizens. Proposals to offer foreign workers seasonal visas were blocked by industry leaders at the meeting, because of concerns over safety and training issues.

After the meeting, Ellie Johnson Searl, director of training at the confederation met officials from the Department for Work and Pensions to further press the need to target older British workers.

Searl said there were many people over 25 who were not suitable for the New Deal scheme and could be channelled into construction through additional funding.

She said: "Such an agreement will hopefully attract those people into the construction industry and help with the complications they they may have in their lives, such as children."

The consensus was that a short-term scheme would not work and UK residents must be trained

Neil Willoughby, electrical union AEEU

She added that the general feeling in last week's meeting was that a short-term immigrant scheme would compromise health and safety and the commitment to qualify the workforce.

The CITB confirmed this week that it is in talks with government agency the Learning Skills Council over funding to attract into the industry and train unemployed over-25s.

Electrical union AEEU official Neil Willoughby, who was also at the summit, said his union would not support any scheme to bring foreign workers to construction until the pool of unemployed labour in the UK had sufficient training opportunities.

Willoughby said: "The general consensus was that a short-term scheme would not work and unemployed UK residents must first be trained."