Chris Luty, managing director of Oldbury-based BCTG, spoke out after Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivered his Spending Review.
He said: “While we welcome the fact the Chancellor has extended employer incentives to recruit apprentices until March 31, 2021, with up to £3,000 available, we believe the real challenge is how we invest long term in the skills our economy needs.
"It’s not simply about ‘levelling up’, it’s about making sure we have the skilled labour to rebuild and actually benefit from major infrastructure projects.”
He pointed out that apprenticeship numbers had fallen, not just during the Covid crisis, but every year since 2017.
“The answer is more than just short-term incentives," he added.
"We need to relook at the reasons for this sustained decline. We know that rules around ‘off the job training’ are major factor that puts employers off, especially SMEs.
"They need more flexibility, so this is a real opportunity for the Government to act now to address this.”
He said the new £375 million Lifetime Skills Guarantee, previously announced by the Prime Minister, is a step in the right direction but needs to be broader than paying for traditional college-based courses.