Construction industry leaders in Scotland have joined forces to voice major concerns over a shake-up to the way the training and employment of apprentices is governed.
Employers, trade associations and trade unions claim the changes due to be brought in later this year will risk the quality of training for apprentices and undermine their pay and conditions.
They argue the changes are set to be introduced by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) “despite the absence of meaningful consultation”.
The new framework proposes ending the need for workers to be registered with apprenticeship registration bodies which are responsible for monitoring and regulating the working conditions, wages, recruitment and training of apprentices in the Scottish construction industry.
Representatives of more than 300 construction firms have now written to the CITB over their concerns.
Vaughan Hart, managing director of the Scottish Building Federation, said: “Many of our members have expressed very real concerns about the impact this new framework will have on the overall quality of apprenticeship training and on the terms and conditions of employment of apprentices.”
Steve Dillon, regional co-ordinating officer for Unite in Scotland, said the union was “extremely concerned” at a proposal he said would undermine pay and conditions of apprentices. Employers say ending mandatory registration for apprentices will make it virtually impossible for working conditions and wages to be monitored and enforced.
Ian Rodgers, chief executive of the Scottish Decorators’ Federation, said: “It is deeply concerning that the CITB are acting in this very high-handed and intransigent manner, positioning themselves as working against the wishes of the industry in Scotland.”
Sarah Beale, chief executive of the CITB, said the framework had been designed to meet the “needs of the construction industry in Scotland as a whole”.
“Over the past six months, we have conducted a wide and detailed consultation process with employers and educators, spanning 14 events and contacting over 1,000 employers,” she said.
“CITB believes that these changes will significantly improve the delivery of apprenticeships in Scotland. We will continue to work closely with industry and the apprenticeship delivery network to maintain the current high standards of construction apprenticeship training in Scotland.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “There are well-established processes to ensure that frameworks for the construction sector meet the needs of employers and apprentices across Scotland and we look to all parties to work together to achieve this.
“We have committed to expand, widen and enhance our successful apprenticeship offer in Scotland.”