Thousands of boys from the blackstuff face losing their jobs - unless they are trained to dig up the roads, writes Stephen Hoare.
New government regulations mean every roadwork gang needs at least one qualified worker and a qualified supervisor. An estimated 34,000 still need to sign up for a course.
Labourers have up to August 5 to train and register under the New Roads and Street Works Act. If they don't train their jobs will be at risk, the Construction and Industry Training Board warned this week.
The board has been urging companies to book courses to avoid disappointment. CITB's acting manager of direct training Mike O'Reilly said: "Many of them have delayed training their supervisors until almost the last minute and now we seem to have the same problem with operatives but on a much larger scale."
At first one gang member will have to have the City Guilds Streetworks Excavation and Reinstatement Certificate, but eventually anyone wanting to dig up a road or footpath will have to have a City Guilds certificate in Roadwork - a move which will affect 150,000 people.
The real problem affecting training is that the labourer who digs up roads tends to be self-employed.
Casual workers who move from job to job have never previously needed formal qualifications, often being paid for every metre of road dug. They work for the duration of a contract and then move on to a new employer, giving companies no incentive to invest in training.
John Bannon, training manager for London contractors Utility Cable of Watford, said: "The issue of who pays for training is a difficult one. We can't invest in training these people if they are going to move on. But we are giving operatives an incentive to train by helping them spread payments."