FMB chief executive Brian Berry said that while a recent survey of his group's members showed that nearly all (94 per cent) of small construction companies want to hire apprentices, one-third are too worried about the costs of employing and training apprentices to get involved in such schemes.
"The construction industry is in the midst of a skills crisis which can only be solved if more employers take on apprentices," Berry warned, adding that firms would be more likely to hire apprentices if they knew about the financial support available to them.
"There is strong evidence to show that small construction firms need better information and that if they were more aware of the support that's available, a great number would train apprentices," Berry said. "Just under 80 per cent of non-recruiters are not aware of one of the most important apprenticeship grants available to them and just over 75 per cent say knowledge of financial support would make them more likely to take on apprentices."
Berry also cautioned that the government's new apprenticeship levy, which chancellor George Osborne confirmed last week would amount to 0.5 per cent payroll tax for large firms, puts the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) "at risk".
"Without [the CITB] the very smallest firms would be left with less financial and practical support for apprenticeship training – remove this lifeline and you risk worsening the skills crisis," Berry said.