Does the construction industry hold the key to unemployment?

The construction industry should be used as a tool to help get people off the dole and into work, the London Assembly heard this week.

Members of the London Assembly were told there are 150,000 skilled construction workers on the dole, at a cost of £2.1billion in benefits.

Does the construction industry hold the key to unemployment?

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) said that spending around five per cent of that cost on repair and maintenance work could create 3,200 jobs.

At this week’s meeting of the Assembly Economy Committee, the capital’s construction industry also called for a one-stop-shop to cut through red tape and make it easier to take apprentices on board.

Experts said the number of opportunities for construction apprentices has fallen dramatically over the last few years — in 2008, the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) placed 15,000 apprentices, compared to just 7,000 now.

Representatives of the construction industry said most companies want to take on apprentices, but with each of London’s 32 boroughs having its own policy on apprenticeships, companies did not know who to talk to.

A one-stop-shop for apprentice would not only make it easier for companies, but would encourage boroughs to use apprentices who have already worked on a short project in a neighbouring area — something which they are currently reluctant to do.

“Despite the gloomy outlook faced by London’s construction industry as a result of the recession and falling levels of public investment, I was pleased that they want to play a positive role in taking on apprentices to help get Londoners into good jobs,” Stephen Knight AM, Chair of the London Assembly Economy Committee, said.

“Working in construction often requires years of training to acquire a high level of skills and we must make it easier for companies to take on apprentices in London.”