CONSTRUCTION employers say they are increasingly concerned about a plan for a new framework for how apprentices working in craft trades are trained and employed.

A coalition of Scottish employers, trade associations and trade unions has warned the proposals are to be introduced at the start of the 2017/18 academic year “despite the absence of meaningful consultation”.

Representatives of more than 300 construction firms who employ apprentices in Scotland have written to the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), which is introducing the proposed plans.

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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 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.”

The framework proposes ending the need for workers to be registered with apprenticeship registration bodies.

They are responsible for monitoring and regulating the working conditions, wages, recruitment and training of apprentices in the Scottish construction industry.

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.

There are also concerns it could lead to a deskilling of the industry workforce by moving away from SVQ Level 3 apprenticeships in traditional building trades.

Ian Rodgers, chief executive of the Scottish Decorators’ Federation, 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.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We continue to work with employers and relevant stakeholders to both maintain and improve the quality of frameworks across the modern apprenticeship programme.

“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 and our ambition is to provide 30,000 new starts per year by 2020.”