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Construction training system is broken, says Unite



Union giant Unite has called for a comprehensive overhaul of construction training methods, having unearthed a significant increase in so-called ‘dead end courses’.

Unite lodged a freedom of information request with the Skills Funding Agency which revealed that 203,400 people had completed a full or part-time construction course in 2016/17 – up 5% on 2015/16, during which 192,500 such courses were undertaken (itself a 14% increase on the year previous).

Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of these are considered ‘dead end courses’ by Unite – i.e. classroom-based with no apprenticeship link-up. In fact, only 21,010 or 10% had some kind of apprenticeship component. Without this, trainees are unable to achieve NVQ level – the only recognised qualification in the construction industry today.

The Construction Industry Training Board estimates that 31,600 new workers are needed each year, and that figure will only increase as Brexit unfurls and access to migrant labour dries up. Consequently, Unite is urging the industry to refocus its funding and allocate less to further education, private providers and third sector parties and more to support a greater number of genuine apprenticeships.

According to Gail Cartmail, Assistant General Secretary at Unite: “These figures show that the current construction training system is broken. Young people are too often having their hopes of a construction career crushed as they end up on courses which can’t provide the qualifications they need.

“Thousands of people are applying for apprenticeships but there are not enough places available, yet at the same time construction colleges are piling on ‘dead end courses’ which deny young people the qualifications needed for a career in construction.

“In two year’s we have had nearly a 20% in construction courses at a time when there has been no significant increase in apprenticeships. The government needs to sit down and a take a multi-department approach to this problem and to use the funding it is providing to maximise the number of construction apprentices. This is in the best interests of young people, the construction industry and the economy.”

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