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Armitt: Firms to blame for skills shortage

National Infrastructure Commissioner Sir John Armitt has called on employers to take more responsibility for training.

The former 2012 delivery chief, who called for creation of a national infrastructure commission back in 2013, said firms could not blame the government for skills shortages.

“The construction industry cannot hold its head up high in terms of its training in the last 30 years and I think it’s got to get to grips with accepting a greater degree of responsibility for training,” he said,

“It’s not the government’s responsibility, it’s the employers’, and they’ve got to do it and this skills shortage is not just with brick layers, it’s with engineers, project managers.”

Speaking after the launch of the commission at the National Railway Musuem in York, Armitt also conceded that the commission would have no way of forcing the government to fund projects.

“The commission is not a delivery agent, the commission is a recommending agent. At the end of the day these are fundamentally political decisions,” he said.

Chancellor George Osborne spoke at the launch of his vision for the future and the need for the commission.

Osborne said that the country had “failed to think long term” and that projects such as Thames Tideway and HS2 were being built on a national consensus and had been able to escape the “terrible British disease of short termism, lurching from one short term plan to another.”

In the statement, the chancellor pledged £100bn in infrastructure spending by 2020 for new roads, rail, flood defences and other vital projects.

The commission will be chaired by former cabinet minister Lord Adonis.

Lord Adonis said the great engineering feats of the past could inspire new projects for the future.

“As we appreciate the legacy of the great Victorian engineers, we constantly need to look to the future,” said Adonis. “We certainly can’t rely on that legacy - trains, Bazalgette sewers or our housing stock - as they may not always be sufficient for the next generation.”

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