Careers drive for building industry

13th December 2002 at 00:00
The careers service is to head a campaign to promote major training and job opportunities in the building industry. Latest estimates point to 27,000 new entrants being needed between 2000-05.

In a move which will have a significant impact on colleges and other training providers, the Positive about Construction campaign to be run by Careers Scotland is part of a pound;35 million drive spearheaded by Scottish Enterprise to revitalise the industry.

The plans also include growth in modern apprenticeship and Skillseeker places, and tackling what a Scottish Enterprise report calls "an unacceptably high" proportion of apprentices in construction places who do not complete their training - as many as half of the 1997 group in Glasgow alone.

The new initiative has been sparked by fears of growing skill shortages in the building industry as major projects get under way, particularly in Glasgow. Demand for construction work in the city is projected to expand by 64 per cent between 2001 and 2008, driven significantly by the pound;4.3 billion investment in the transfer of housing from Glasgow City Council to the Glasgow Housing Association, the largest in Europe to date.

This has led Scottish Enterprise to earmark pound;25m of the pound;35m total for Glasgow.

Another development which will put pressure on the industry is the pound;1bn privately-funded schools rebuilding programme.

Scottish Enterprise accepts that, despite the demand from young people applying for construction jobs, the campaign will have to challenge "the negative perception of the industry among school-leavers, parents, job-seekers and minority groups". But it accepts this may be a legacy of the past and out of touch with the modern industry.

The agency's report says that, while the supply of building trade skills is growing, it is not enough: the number of apprentices completing the main trades is likely to grow by only 10 per cent by 2004. The four-year training period for most trades makes it very difficult to respond effectively.

An analysis of why half of Glasgow's apprentices and Skillseekers fail to complete their training has not uncovered any single reason. Among the factors could be discontent with youngsters' first choice of career after leaving school, a limited range of work experience in a particular company to complete the apprenticeship or little encouragement to complete the award.

But the campaign will also target a broader range of recruits, who tend to be 16 and 17-year-old white males; women and ethnic minority adults are "seriously under-represented". Adult entry is hindered as employers are paid less for older apprentices, and Scottish Enterprise is proposing to pay sweeteners to building firms to persuade them to train more adults. The plan also envisages upskilling the existing workforce - 164,000 in Scotland as a whole - including on-site assessment and testing.

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