The national executive board of the National Federation of Builders (NFB) has unanimously called for a rethink on CITB’s function and purpose after hearing mounting concern among members.
Concerns about CITB have been expressed both by the NFB’s Major Contractors Group (comprised of main contractors with a turnover of £40m+) and its regional executive boards.
While some are fundamentally opposed to a collectivist pan-industry approach to training, the NFB is not. It supports the aims and existence of the CITB but believes it should do better for less.
In November 2017 the CITB unveiled restructuring plans, quitting training delivery, leaving its traditional home in Bircham Newton, selling the CSkills awarding body and card schemes to NOCN. In place of training the industry, its core businesses became needs assessment, levy collection/distribution and marketing/lobbying.
These substantial changes have been taking place over the past couple of years, and not always smoothly.
The NFB now wants “major governance reforms to ensure better value for money, efficient collection and continued delivery of skills and training projects and programmes”. It says that collection of the levy is inefficient and too many valuable industry training programmes have been lost amid the reforms.
The NFB is also concerned that CITB’s own figures show that while all construction firms pay their share of the levy, distribution of training grants is biased towards larger firms set up to have training departments. The NFB wants “a fairer approach to grant expenditure, ensuring that businesses of all sizes benefit equitably”.
Under the industrial training legislation that underpins the CITB, it must continually demonstrate its legitimacy by formally consulting the industry every three years and taking a vote to establish ‘consensus’.
The CITB is due to hold a consensus vote this year but it has been reported that this may be delayed in light of changes to the CITB’s business plan. The NFB is calling for consensus to go ahead this year, giving industry the chance to have its say on the CITB’s reformed offer to industry.
Nick Sangwin, chair of the National Federation of Builders said: “We have today written to Gillian Keegan MP the apprenticeship and skills minister to outline our concerns about the operation of the CITB and to request that consensus takes place this year. At the last consensus CITB were put on notice and we listened and gave them our approval. Many members feel that they haven't listened to what we were telling them three years ago. With increasing bureaucracy in accessing training funding, reduced levels of local training, swathing suspensions and cuts to funded projects and programmes; CITB needs a fundamental shake-up and should ask industry to approve a new way forward. The CITB should not hide from asking industry to endorse its approach to spending our money, to train our people.”
Herman Kok, company secretary of Lindum Group, a £170m turnover construction company added: “I have chaired a Lincolnshire CITB funded training group for 18-plus years. It saddens me that CITB appears to have completely lost its way. No support for health and safety training, no support for companies of our size and no support for (small) local training companies and still CITB insists on levying our industry at the start of what is likely to be one of the worst recessions in living memory. A topsy-turvy world: Instead of CITB supporting us, our industry is asked to support the CITB. And for what?”
In response, Stephen Radley, director of policy and strategy at the CITB, said: “Today’s comments show that we need to work better with NFB and its members. In the next two weeks, we will share our plans on the levy and how we will support the industry this year. We will use this to work more closely with NFB and other stakeholders. Our plan will focus on simple practical support on apprenticeships and training, building on what we’ve already done during the crisis. Since that hit, we’ve suspended levy bills, brought forward apprenticeship grant payments, supported online training and broadened the scope of grant support for small and medium-sized employers. Feedback from thousands of construction employers suggests that this support has hit the mark.
“We’ve also accepted NFB’s previous recommendations for reform, with small firms represented on our board and on the nations councils we’ve set up. We’ve reduced our headcount from 1,500 to 833 with a further reduction of 190 to come, together with other measures to reduce costs. And we will press on with plans to increase efficiency this year.”