Unite has given a cautious welcome to a new initiative by the Construction industry Training board (CITB) designed to help ensure trainee bricklayers gain the necessary qualifications to work in the industry.
Unite has led the way in calling for a radical overhaul of construction training to end the problem of dead end construction courses, where young people undertake a college based construction course, that is not linked to an employer, unlike a standard apprenticeship. Due to the lack of onsite experience the trainees can’t obtain an NVQ, which is the only recognised qualification in the industry.
Under the pilot scheme being run in the North West and the West Midlands. trainees having completed a two year college course will initially be allocated a local employer and complete an additional seven week college course which includes onsite work experience.
They will then undertake a 24 week onsite training course with the employer, which will allow them achieve their NVQ level 2 brickwork qualification.
While welcoming the initiative Unite has a number of concerns and is seeking reassurances that the workers are paid appropriate apprentice rates when they undertake their onsite training.
Unite also believes that once the trainees achieve their NVQ Level 2, they should be given the opportunity and the appropriate funding to undertake an NVQ Level 3 to become a fully trained craftworker.
Unite is also concerned that an element of the course teaches the trainees about being self-employed, in an industry blighted by ‘bogus self-employment. The union believes that such elements must clearly describe the pitfalls of self-employment such as no job security, access to fewer benefits if not working and no pension.
Also such training should include information on the problems and the excessive deductions workers experience if they are required to work via a payroll or umbrella company.
Equally the trainees should be taught about their roles and importance of trade unions.
“Dead end construction courses are a scourge in the industry,” said Unite national officer Jerry Swain. “Every year thousands of trainees are thrown on the scrapheap as they find that their college based construction training is considered virtually worthless in the industry.
“Employers must understand that quality training will only be achieved through onsite learning and training.
“These pilot projects should be cautiously welcomed but the workers need to be properly treated, for example once they have an employer, they are paid apprentice rates,” he added.
“The scheme will only be achieved by a success if the trainees develop the necessary skills to equip them to work in the industry throughout their working lives.
“Workers undertaking this training need to be tracked and the scheme should only be considered a success if the vast majority are still working in the industry a year after completing the training.
“Equally rather than reducing skills levels it is essential that workers who follow these courses are given every opportunity and funding to achieve an NVQ Level 3,” Swain went on to say.
“Any training and information on self-employment must include the problems and pitfalls rather than young workers being told that this is an ideal form of engagement.
“Finally, the pilot needs to ensure that workers are given information on joining a union and the role unions play in increasing wages, improving conditions and reducing dangers in the industry.”