Building skills

Professor Ewart Keep (Platform, 29 February) raises a critical issue when he asks whether the rapid growth in apprenticeship numbers in Scotland has led to a trade-off between volume and quality.

The construction sector has traditionally been the cornerstone of Scotland’s apprenticeship system and remains the most popular modern apprenticeship framework.

Construction is also widely recognised as offering some of the highest quality apprenticeship opportunities available. But while total apprenticeship numbers have soared, the number of new construction apprentices has remained static.

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The building industry certainly faces short- to medium-term challenges. But if we are to avoid a major skills shortage in the longer term, we need to support construction firms to recruit more apprentices right now – a real challenge at a time when overall employment in the industry is falling.

The headline target of 25,000 apprenticeships a year is laudable. But if we are going to match skills policy better to our future economic needs, we need to focus as much attention on quality as on volume. That means targeting additional support for apprenticeships in industries such as construction that can offer high quality opportunities and good, long-term prospects.

Michael Levack

Scottish Building Federation

Crichton’s Close