CECA Director of Training Joe Johnson said: "The Department for Children, Schools and Families said they would be able to tell us how many 14-17 year olds are taking on Diplomas by now. They appear to be sitting on the information and contractors will draw the conclusion that the uptake has been poor unless we can see otherwise.
"A poor uptake may reflect the poor information provided by DCFS about the new qualification, or that pupils, parents and teachers have as little confidence in them as employers do."
Yesterday, exam board Edexcel chief Jerry Jarvis told the Guardian newspaper that teachers had insufficient training in the new diplomas. He said he feared the diplomas could prove too demanding for students.
Jarvis told the Guardian: "If the Diploma doesn't earn its spurs as a qualification, and that means respect from employers, pupils, parents and higher education, we face a serious problem. There is a huge educational risk to this country." The government rejected his views.
The new diplomas, designed to carry a similar weight to A-levels, are due to begin in September. They are designed to give young peope a, "better insight into what the sector is like to work in. They will be more motivated when entering employment because they will already be equipped with the skills they need to further their careers," according to the diploma website.
Consortia of, "schools, colleges and employers and will provide young people with the chance to study in a stimulating and 'practical' environment being taught by people with relevant and up to date skills."
Johnson says, "The Government have failed to make it clear to employers what the status of the new Diplomas will be or how they can get involved with the consortia delivering them in their area. Rather than raise the standard of the course content and make the Diploma pathway straight forward they have chosen to complicated matters by introducing Progression Diplomas. Employer engagement has been, at best, limited.
"Students looking for an alternative to the academic pathway would have been bemused by the down grading of the vocational element of the Diplomas. Contractors have been particularly unimpressed with the change in the work experience element to 'experience of work' meaning that a holder of the C&BE Diploma might not have set foot on a construction site during the entire course."
CECA are also concerned that:
- There could be varying standards of delivery within consortia, should one construction employer leave a consortia area having completed a contract and another joins. This will also mean a varying degree of work experience making it difficult for an employer to gauge the level of skill and understanding among Diploma holders.
- By 2013 each LEA will have to provide all Diplomas through at least one consortium within their area. In Local Education Authorities with only one consortium delivering the C&BE Diploma students may face an unrealistic or prohibitively expensive commute.
- The mathematics content of the C&BE Diploma may not be of sufficient standard to allow students to continue on to study construction degrees. The Government has created the Progression Diploma, worth 2 A levels, which allows a student to study a full A level alongside the Diploma course to overcome this, adding considerable confusion to an already unclear pathway. Progression Diplomas were not asked for by employers.