TClarke CEO Mark Lawrence spoke out as the firm took on its latest intake of apprentices on its scheme which currently has 180 trainees.
He called for that commitment to training to be recognised when it comes to handing out subcontract packages.
Lawrence said: “This year has been different for all of us. The challenges of the virus are exceptional in every way, and so it would have been easy for TClarke to say ‘this year, we will not take on any apprentices.’ No one would have blamed us.
“But we did not take that easy route. We showed our commitment – we showed our willingness to invest in our future, in our new apprentices future, in the futures of 180 apprentices across the Group and in our industry’s future.
“I have a direct and frank question for our marketplace and for those who have the power to make choices: Does commitment like this carry weight with you?
“When it comes to choosing partners for a project – does this matter in practical terms? Or is it in truth irrelevant to the choices you make?
“Either our marketplace actively recognises the value of skills and the creation of a talent pool or it does not. Now is the time.
“If it does not, then contract by contract, project by project, the construction world and the UK supply chain will fight on price and keep on grinding downwards.
“The result will be that for all the billions of pounds invested by the nation in the coming months and years to build the homes and infrastructure, there will be little return in terms of skills, and quality jobs for the future.
“The reason why I have chosen this moment to make this clear call is simple. Now is a time when our industry has to look ahead. We have to address our skills challenge ourselves.
“As we move through the challenges of the virus and Brexit and build for our country’s future, we have two choices – and the stresses of these current challenges bring them into highlight.
“We have an urgent need for more skills. We need to build those skills right here – right now. We also have a period of pressure on budgets.
“So do you – as a client, a principal contractor and a decision maker – choose those partners who are building skills and investing in the resources you know you need – or do you choose those who are not?”