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Skills crisis needs radical action to avert 'economic meltdown'

THE NEXT government must urgently tackle skills shortages within construction or the industry faces 'economic meltdown', civil engineers standing for parliament warned this week.

Government must display a 'radical' change in attitude towards the future of the industry, warned ICE Fellow David Chidgey, otherwise the lack of staff will severely restrict output within 20 years.

'It has to be the government that takes the lead, not just leaving the industry to help itself, ' he said, 'or we could be facing economic meltdown.'

Chidgey, who was formerly with transport consultant Brian Colquhoun, has been MP for Eastleigh, Hertfordshire, since 1994. He believes the next government could boost employment by launching schemes similar to those used in the nursing and teaching professions.

Schemes have included financial assistance or 'golden hello' lump sums to prospective teachers, and guaranteed training places and improved career prospects for nurses.

Labour candidate for Bournemouth West David Stokes, who works as a sub-agent for main contractor Mildren Construction, added that the problem was most obvious in the trade professions in his constituency.

He added that, if elected, he would prioritise help to smaller firms that could not afford to send their staff on government training schemes such as National Vocational Qualification courses. 'If we don't start getting young people into the construction industry we are in serious trouble, ' he said.

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