My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have recently received submissions from any source regarding the training of apprentices for the building industry.
My Lords, the Government have received no such submissions.
My Lords, is the Minister aware that I am a little surprised at that reply as I understand that the Institute of Maintenance and Building Management submitted proposals to the Department of Employment some weeks ago indicating its concern about the small number of people who were emerging as craftsmen in the building industry? Will he take up the matter with the Secretary of State to see whether such a report has been received? Will he give serious consideration to the four points raised in the report which are designed to improve the present situation?
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, and I shall draw his remarks to the attention of my right honourable friend.
My Lords, is the Minister aware that the National Federation of Building Trades Employers used to run a first-class apprenticeship scheme? In fact it was brilliant. Does it still run, and if not, why not?
My Lords, I should like to give the noble Lord accurate information and so perhaps he will allow me to write to him on that subject. As the noble Lord is aware, there is a great number of efficient voluntary schemes.
My Lords, is it not a fact that in certain areas of the construction industry there are serious shortages of skilled employees and that these shortages are such as seriously to endanger some projects? Should not steps be taken in this area to ensure that there is proper skill training?
My Lords, the noble Baroness is quite right to draw this general area to our attention. The matter is essentially one for the industry but I should tell your Lordships that in January this year Ministers hosted a meeting on building skill shortages and asked the Construction Industry Training Board to produce an action plan for an increase in both adult and youth trainee numbers. Ministers discussed progress on 1st December. I am happy to be able to report that there was good progress. Nearly 2,000 additional YTS places and 1,000 adult upgrading places are expected by the spring of 1988.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that the quality of the construction of housing and factories is of the utmost importance? Is he aware that he has a pivotal role to play in maintaining standards? Will he consult the industry rather than wait for it to come to him? If he would consult the industry and bodies like the Federation of Master Builders they would not only give him good advice but also help him to improve the flow of apprentices in the industry.
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord that quality in construction is of the utmost importance. I should point out to him that the Government, in combination with the Construction Industry Training Board, are making every effort to modernise apprenticeships within the industry and to introduce training to standards and skill tests.
My Lords, will the noble Earl agree that in the second year of YTS a steady flow of youngsters should be coming into the building industry and being trained on a modular basis? Is that not very desirable?
My Lords, I agree entirely with the noble Baroness. It is very desirable. I have every confidence that we can expect increasing numbers of people to come forward in that way.
My Lords, will my noble friend agree that consistently throughout the lifetime of the Manpower Services Commission the industry has been represented through the CBI and through TUC representatives on the commission and that there has been constant consultation about how YTS would link with continuing education and training to standards for apprentices in the building industry?
Yes, my Lords. I would, on the whole, agree with my noble friend.
My Lords, is the Minister aware that in addition to the organisation I mentioned in my supplementary question, other reputable and established organisations such as the Institute of Clerks of Works of Great Britain, the Institute of Building, the Building Employers Confederation and the trade unions are all expressing the view that apprentices are not coming through in sufficient quantities. Desirable though the two-year period is, they are asking that it be extended to three years in order to produce a more finished product. Is it not a fact that the CITB is holding in reserve something in excess of £6 million? Would it not be logical to plough some of this money into extending training schemes to try to correct the present imbalance?
My Lords, in reply to the second part of the noble Lord's question and in reference to remarks I have already made about the action which the Government are taking, I mentioned that in January this year Ministers hosted a meeting on building skills shortages and asked the CITB to produce an action plan for an increase in both adult and youth trainee numbers. The funds to which the noble Lord referred will be used for that purpose.With regard to the first part of his question and the very important point about the need to link to employers' requirements, I can tell him that the Construction Industry Training Board is in the process of conducting a major study of occupational structures in the industry. This will enable the CITB to undertake a full review of training provision. That survey is due to be completed in June 1988.