The future of the construction industry hangs in the balance following today’s government announcement on apprenticeship funding reforms, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

The announcement said that a final decision has not yet been reached, but government aims to give employers direct control of apprenticeship funding.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “Today’s announcement by the Skills Minister offers no clarity or reassurance regarding the future of apprenticeship funding. Despite the business community across many sectors repeatedly warning government of the potential impact of their proposed reforms on the desire and ability of SMEs to train apprentices, we have been told that giving employers direct control of apprenticeship funding remains a non-negotiable part of the reforms.

“We have waited eight months for the government response to their Spring 2014 consultation and have today been presented with two sides of A4 which only serve to fuel our fears about the ability of SME construction firms to train apprentices. If SME firms – particularly micro-firms – are asked to pay for apprenticeship training up front, it will have a negative impact on cash flow and increase levels of bureaucracy, no matter how simple the system is.”

He concluded: “I urge government to think again and not to undermine the construction recovery, which is tentatively moving in the right direction but could easily be set off course if we don’t have enough new skilled workers entering the industry.

“Indeed, the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) predicts that 200,000 new roles will be created in our sector over the next five years and a key way to fill these roles will be via apprenticeships. To experiment with apprenticeship training at such a time and against the advice of large swathes of the business community is irresponsible and foolish.”