It was an unusual year but, like so many industry organisations, the CITB stepped up to respond to the circumstances created by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The CITB focused on practical support for employers, such as providing online Covid-19 site operating procedures, checklists and risk assessments, which were downloaded 38,000 times. A free Covid-19 course was also completed online by 22,000 people.
To aid cashflow for employers, levy collection was suspended for five months during 2020 and halved for 2021-22. It also funded a project with the Lighthouse Club charity to train mental health first aiders.
The CITB Skills & Training Fund supported close to 1,000 small and medium-sized employers. SMEs contributed about 70% of levy and received 73% of the grants and funding.
Apprenticeships grants supported more than 23,000 apprentices and nearly 9,000 employers during 2020-21, while 2,800 apprentices benefited from travel and subsistence funding in rural or hard-to-reach areas. CITB enabled apprenticeship attendance grants to be paid in advance to employers and contacted more than 11,000 apprentices to provide support through the pandemic – just 2.5% ended up being made redundant, with half of those going on to start a new construction apprenticeship elsewhere.
While critics of the CITB are easy to find, it has its supporters too.
Evan Thomas, managing director of Probuild Llandudno Ltd, said: “CITB have been a huge support for our company during very unsettling times due to the pandemic. Our company cannot thank them enough for their actions.”
Stuart Greenhouse, director of Huntingdon-based Chestnut Compliance & Plant Ltd, said: “CITB have been a huge help to small firms like mine. It’s safe to say that without their help we would have struggled to fund the much-needed training courses that have helped us no end.”
Lee Marley, founder of Lee Marley Brickwork Ltd, said: “In 2020 the decision was made to start taking on brickwork apprentices in in Scotland. The company contacted CITB to help facilitate this. The representatives were very helpful in coordinating the sign-up process of apprentices and contacting the colleges. Currently Lee Marley Brickwork Ltd have taken on 14 apprentices in Scotland and will continue to do so.”
CITB chief executive Tim Balcon, who replaced Sarah Beale last month, said: “Our accounts for 2020-21 show how it was no ordinary year for the sector. To protect skills CITB acted quickly to provide assistance, doing everything we could to protect apprenticeships as well as enabling employers to continue training amid very difficult and constantly changing circumstances.
“From levy receipts, 84p in every pound was invested in the last financial year into employer funding and industry-wide initiatives to address skills requirements. As construction recovers from the pandemic, CITB’s support for skills and training will remain at the heart of helping to solve the current, emerging and future challenges that the industry faces.”
The accounts show that the Construction Skills Fund (CSF) hubs, funded by the Department for Education and often run by local councils on major development sites, provided free training and site experience to nearly 6,000 people in 2020-21, with almost 900 gaining permanent employment in the construction industry. CITB’s successor to CSF is the Onsite Experience hub, which aims to deliver over 8,500 ‘onsite experiences’, with at least 3,800 candidates moving into employment by 2024.
CITB also funded organisations such as trade associations to deliver training to construction companies, and higher education facilities, such as the University of Wales Trinity St David with its new CITB-funded scaffolding training centres in Swansea and Cardiff.