Scottish builders ‘increasingly concerned’ by planned new craft apprenticeship framework

Home building stockScottish construction employers are becoming increasingly concerned by plans to introduce a new framework governing how apprentices working in the industry’s traditional craft trades are trained and employed.

The warning has been issued by a coalition of industry employers, trade associations and trade unions as plans to introduce the new framework from the start of the 2017-18 academic year look likely to go ahead despite an absence of meaningful consultation.

Senior representatives of more than 300 Scottish construction companies that collectively employ and train almost 2,000 craft apprentices across Scotland recently co-signed a letter to the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), the body responsible for introducing the proposed new framework.

The letter raises serious concerns about the planned introduction of the new framework and the potential impact on the standard and quality of apprenticeship training and collectively bargained terms and conditions of employment that currently apply to apprentices working in the industry.

In particular, the new framework proposes to bring to an end the existing mandatory requirement for building apprentices to be registered with recognised apprenticeship registration bodies the Scottish Building Apprenticeship and Training Council (SBATC) and the Scottish Painting and Decorating Apprenticeship Council (SPADAC). These bodies are currently responsible for monitoring and regulating the working conditions, wages, recruitment and training of apprentices working in the Scottish construction industry.

Industry employers are concerned that the disappearance of mandatory registration of building apprentices will make it virtually impossible for their working conditions and wages to be consistently monitored and enforced in the future.

Longer term, there are also concerns that the new framework could lead to a deskilling of the industry workforce by opening the door to diluted SVQ Level 2 apprenticeships in the traditional building trades. Many industry insiders fear that moving away from the current SVQ Level 3 qualification will lead to a long-term deterioration in skills and competency and a critical undermining of health and safety across the sector.

Despite repeated industry objections to the proposed new framework and sustained requests to delay its introduction, CITB is continuing to recommend that it be implemented with effect from the start of the 2017-18 academic year.

Scottish Building Federation managing director, Vaughan Hart, 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 in the Scottish construction industry.

“Spanning many decades, we have a proud tradition of championing high quality skills, training and career opportunities for the many thousands of young people entering the construction industry each year. All of that will be placed at risk if these proposals go ahead.”

Scottish Decorators’ Federation chief executive, Ian Rogers, said: “It is deeply concerning that CITB, who are meant to carry out the industry’s instructions are acting in this very high handed and intransigent manner, positioning themselves as working against the wishes of the industry in Scotland. The industry now needs to step forward to stop this from happening. Our hope is that the Employability and Training Minister listens to the voice of the industry rather than an English-centric Industry Training Board.”

Steve Dillon, regional coordinating officer for Unite in Scotland, added: “At Unite Scotland we are extremely concerned by any proposal that will undermine the pay, terms and conditions and skill level of Scottish construction apprentices. The collective bargaining structure of the SBATC has been a shining light in Scotland’s construction sector by ensuring young people entering the industry have had the protection of trade union collectivism as they set out in the world of work. Unite will oppose with vigour any attempts to undermine that.

“Additionally we fully support the maintenance of craft apprenticeships at skill Level 3 as a basis for future security of employment for our apprentices, and believe that the apprenticeship structure within the Scottish construction industry should not be in any way devalued from its current form.”

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