The Scottish Building Federation wants to see training as a key criteria when awarding public sector contracts of all sizes.
The call comes as a federation survey showed 56% of firms fear they will have to cut back on apprentice numbers during the next 12 months.
Federation chief executive Michael Levack said: “The public procurement system could do a great deal more to recognise the significant efforts many building firms are making in continuing to offer apprenticeships in the face of such tough trading conditions.
“We have strongly welcomed the Scottish government’s commitment to bring forward a sustainable procurement bill designed to recognise the creation of skills and training opportunities as part of the system for awarding public sector contracts.
“With a downward trend in the number of apprentices working in construction apparently set to continue over the next 12 months, the Scottish government needs to accelerate the timetable for bringing forward this legislation and extend its scope beyond major contracts to include public construction contracts of any size.
“In so doing, the Scottish government would give a greater number of industry employers the confidence to recruit more apprentices, and help the industry to start rebuilding the skills and capacity it has lost.”
The Scottish government said it was delivering a record 25,000 modern apprenticeships this year, and was already using major public contracts to deliver new training and employment opportunities through the use of community benefit clauses.