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Unite: 90 per cent of construction learners on 'dead end' courses

The UK’s largest union is calling for an overhaul of construction training

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The UK’s largest union is calling for an overhaul of construction training

New figures show nine-in-10 learners who are enrolled on construction courses are stuck in so-called “dead-end training”, according to the Unite union.

A freedom of information request, submitted by Unite to the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), revealed that just 10 per cent of the construction courses that 203,400 learners took part in during the past academic year were linked to an apprenticeship.

The remaining 90 per cent were involved in “dead-end training” – so called because it is classroom-based and has no workplace element. Without a workplace element, Unite warns, trainees are unable to attain a National Vocational Qualification, which is the only recognised qualification in the construction industry. 

‘Hopes crushed’

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said the figures show that the current training system is broken. “Young people are too often having their hopes of a 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 colleges are piling on ‘dead-end courses’, which deny young people the qualifications needed for a career in construction. In two years, we have had nearly a 20 per cent increase 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 multidepartment 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.”

Working group formed

The findings come at a time when the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) estimates that the industry needs 31,600 new entrants every year. This figure could rise further as a result of Brexit, as the industry has become reliant on migrant labour, especially in London. 

Braden Connolly, director of products and services at the CITB, said its research shows that six-in-10 learners who aren’t successful in applying for construction jobs after finishing college say this is because of a lack of work experience.

He added: “To address this, we are working closely with industry and government to design a new T level, which will provide every student with a structured, high-quality work placement.

“We are also supporting the new Construction Apprenticeships Working Group, which is set to play a pivotal role in ensuring the right training is in place to produce the highly skilled workforce construction requires.”

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