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Apprenticeships: has the system collapsed?

Published on: 28 Apr 2009

The government has unveiled a series of initiatives and proposals to keep apprentices working on public projects.

However, as placements for apprentices next year look likely to slide another 30-40%, there is a growing sense that the system needs a much more radical intervention if the trainees are to be retained.

The government spends about £175bn a year on construction work. So, if it is serious about the 14,000 target, one obvious move is to favour bids from firms that have taken on apprentices.

The Office of Government Commerce has published a guidance explaining how spending departments could include apprentices requirements in their tenders without falling foul of EU competition law.

Training experts have expressed hope that this move might encourage firms to take on apprentices, but there is no real confidence that either client or contractor will take it seriously enough to change their commercial behaviour; for one thing it is not mandatory.

The biggest problem remains convincing employers of the need to train – particularly when many are struggling to fill their order books.

Apprenticeships lost in the past six months

Bench joinery 77
Carpentry and joinery 872
Bricklaying 371
Plastering 96
Painting and decorating 208

Read more on what the government is doing to help apprentices in Building's Apprenticeships: has the system collapsed?.