The boss of Britain’s biggest building firm says that the CITB has shown itself incapable of delivering the workforce that the industry needs – the organisation’s sole reason for being – and has given too little information of how it will rectify this.
“The stakes are too high for us to sleepwalk over the skills cliff,” Balfour Beatty chief executive Leo Quinn says.
“Currently, the CITB occupies a pivotal role in providing all of us in the sector with the skilled workers we need. Bluntly, the present skills shortage shows it hasn’t been doing this for some time.”
The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) is undergoing its triennial Consensus process. That’s a vote by all the businesses that pay its costs, to get agreement for another three years of levy payments.
It appears that Balfour Beatty is prepared to bring the whole CITB structure down in a bid to rebuild a new industry training structure that might actually work.
In an article on the Balfour Beatty website Mr Quinn says: “Given that CITB raises £200m a year via the levy, the lack of detail in the information it has provided to date is truly concerning. And were the industry to vote ‘no’ at Consensus and cause the CITB to be wound up, any and all liabilities run up (e.g. pension buy-out) would fall to the industry to settle – a severe inducement for levy-payers not to exercise that prerogative. Combining the general lack of transparency on strategy, controls and fiscal approach, this is a level of accountability which would be deemed unacceptable in virtually any other public arena in the UK.”
He adds: “To justify its continued existence alongside the wider Apprenticeship Levy, it must deliver what its Levy-payers – let alone the UK as a whole – critically need: the newly skilled workers to upgrade our infrastructure. Based on the information released by the CITB to date, we have little basis for confidence and strongly believe this it too important to leave to chance.
“Which is why Balfour Beatty is likely to vote against Consensus. Before making a final decision, however, we ask one more time to see detailed information in relation to the reform and governance issues raised above.”
He adds: “This is not the first instance of the industry being told CITB will reform itself. This time, we cannot afford to lose another three years if it fails to deliver.”
CITB chief executive Sarah Beale responded to Mr Quinn's cricitisms, saying: “We agree that CITB needs to see through its reforms, and that the industry needs to be able to hold CITB more strongly to account. Reform of CITB has already started and full details of our complete reform plan will be shared in November, ensuring full alignment to the ITB review recommendations.
“Our biggest ever industry consultation held this spring suggests that a majority of firms, including the smaller employers that dominate our industry, broadly welcome CITB’s reforms. These include streamlining what we do to provide better value for levy payers, embracing the modernisation agenda to help all construction firms become more productive, and ensuring that standards, training, support for careers and our reformed grants scheme are in place to meet industry's key skill needs.
“We have also made it clear that we will work closely with our industry, with employers of all sizes and across Britain, to agree our objectives and to ensure that we are held to account in delivering them. We are confident that a reformed CITB, with active support and challenge from industry, will be well-placed to meet construction’s challenges ahead.”
CITB will publish the results of Consensus at the beginning of November 2017.