Unite, the construction union, has warned that proposals by the Social Market Foundation (SMF) to give the official titles of craftsperson and master craftsperson to workers who undertake an apprenticeship, published yesterday 28 March, would be a small step but not the ‘silver bullet’ needed to dramatically improve the quality of construction apprentices.

Unite believes that the SMF’s proposals would only be effective as part of a wider system of reforms to increase the status of construction apprentices and tackle the rapidly growing skills gap in the industry. These reforms would additionally include:

  • Insuring that existing apprenticeship courses fully protect the training and standard of apprenticeships, with attainment at Level 3 being standard for advanced craft trades
  • The introduction of public sector procurement rules requiring companies that secure public sector contracts to train apprentices to robust quotas, ensuring mandatory investment in the skilled workforce of tomorrow
  • Registration on CSCS and affiliated trade specific skills card schemes (JIB/SJIB, ECS, ACE etc) accrediting a craftworkers hard won skills to nationally recognised standards
  • The introduction of protected titles for construction trades. For example the Scottish government is currently consulting on making electrician a protected title that only trained electricians can use
  • The licensing of competent companies alongside the creation of a competent workforce which provides protection to consumers, the industry and the general public
  • Fair pay, terms and conditions for apprentices and workers to the national collective agreements, ensuring the going rate for the job, and not statutory minimum pay rates.
  • Unite national officer Bernard McAulay said: “The SMF’s proposals would be a small step in improving the status of construction workers and construction training

“However, the introduction of calling skilled workers ‘craftsperson and ‘master craftsperson,’ is only the first step to improving vocational status across the industry and far more needs to be done.

“If the challenges of tackling the construction skills crisis are to be met, rather than ‘cherry pick’ one policy we need a holistic approach which will require companies to train apprentices, and provide skilled construction workers with the protection their skills and training fully deserve.”


Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235.

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.