A third of small construction firms are turned off taking on apprentices because of the bureaucracy involved, according to recent research from the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

The report “Defusing the skills time bomb” shows that 94% of small construction firms want to train apprentices but a 33% are being turned off by a number of serious “fear factors”. These include the cost of employing and training an apprentice and major concerns regarding the complexity of the process.

“The construction industry is in the midst of a skills crisis which can only be solved if more employers take on apprentices. The Government wants to deliver 3 million apprentices over the next five years and this new report sheds some light on how this can be achieved,” said Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB.

The report revealed that 80% of non-recruiters were not aware of one of the most important apprenticeship grants available to them and just over 75% said knowledge of financial support would make them more likely to take on apprentices.

“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 greater number would train apprentices,” Mr Berry added.

“Given that two-thirds of all construction apprentices are trained by SMEs, it is critical that the Government does everything in its power to remove any barriers that might be stopping these companies from training.

“Looking ahead, the Government’s new apprenticeship voucher could be a disaster for small firms unless it is properly road tested and made as simple and easy-to-use as possible. We’re also calling on the Government to protect our industry training board, which is at risk from the new Apprenticeship Levy. The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) needs reform, admittedly, but without it 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.”