We had many fruitful discussions with senior officials, Councillors and Ministers on behalf of the industry.
Here is a summary of the main issues covered during these meetings:
Life as a private body
The future shape of CITB-ConstructionSkills has been the subject of much speculation since reports leaked to The Daily Telegraph indicated that we may be one of four Non-Departmental Public Bodies to be privatised.
We have been working with Government on this issue for some time – meeting with Vince Cable at Liberal Democrat conference, and prior to this with his Special Advisor, to talk through this issue and the future of skills across Construction and The Built Environment. The Conservative Party conference also provided an excellent opportunity to clarify our position on how the Industry Training Board might operate in the future.
Chief Executive Mark Farrar met with the Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, John Hayes, and we were delighted with the Minister’s robust support for our role in underpinning the industry’s skills needs and provisions. He supported our call for more flexibility and freedom for our industry-led Board to determine how employer funds are best invested to help industry meets its challenges.
This is what was meant in the recent Cabinet Office release on public bodies which mentions that Government is ‘considering transferring body and functions to private sector status’ for CITB-ConstructionSkills.
The Minister’s unwavering support is encouraging, and stands testament to the fact that the Government is determined to empower CITB-ConstructionSkills in delivering the right skills, in the right place, at the right time for the Construction and Built Environment sector.
Our Board has already begun to examine the strategic options available to us, and we remain optimistic that the close relationships we enjoy with Minister Hayes and the wider Government will remain whatever shape we take in the future. Government continues its open engagement with us due to our understanding of industry’s skills needs.
The Green Agenda
The construction industry is responsible for contributing 47% of the UK’s total carbon emissions. For this reason, there is an urgent need to equip the sector with the most up to date knowledge and skills, to ensure it can play its part in helping the UK to meet the demands of a low carbon economy.
The impact of the low carbon agenda was a focus at all Party Conferences, with Chris Huhne, Secretary of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, kicking-off the season with the announcement of a new ‘Green Deal’ to create 250,000 jobs by improving insulation and air tightness across 26 million homes in the UK.
The Green Deal is a welcome boost for thousands of small and medium sized construction businesses, but if the industry is to play its part in meeting the Government’s bold carbon reduction targets, much more work is needed to ensure that it is equipped to do so. More needs to be done to stimulate demands from employers and to generate more opportunities for individuals to build their skills.
This is the focus of our new ‘Cut the Carbon’ campaign which was launched in Parliament on October 19. In partnership with the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) and the National Specialist Contractors Council (NSCC), the campaign will help to raise awareness of low carbon legislation and the wealth of opportunities presented by the low carbon agenda.
The new Chair of the Select Committee for Business Innovation and Skills, Adrian Bailey MP, helped us launch the campaign, which has already received support from Gregory Barker MP, Minister responsible for the ‘Green Deal’, and we were active over all conferences in raising awareness of the three year campaign – the details of which can be found at www.cskills.org/cutcarbon.
Decentralisation and the role of Local Enterprise Partnerships
By September 2011, it is more than likely that most Regional Development Agencies will be phased out and replaced by Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) – council and business-led local consortia focused on driving economic growth.
‘Localism, localism, localism’ has become a mantra for the coalition Government, and at the Liberal Democrat Party conference our Deputy Chairman, Judy Lowe, met with a variety of Cabinet Leaders from Local Authorities across England to share our views of the industry’s future, and the challenges it faces in the context of the new LEPs.
We made it clear that, in broad terms, we welcome the emergence of LEPs and the drive to create a business-led model which better reflects regional needs. However, if LEPs are to be a success, Local Authorities will need to take greater steps to engage with the industry, address the importance of construction to economic growth in their area, and to ensure that the right skills are developed locally.
English councils will become even more crucial to the industry following Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s announcement that they will be able to finance more of their own essential infrastructure, rather than relying on central Government spending.
This innovative move, while it may take a few years to implement, is exactly the type of creative solution that can help employers in tight financial times - and this is an area that we’ll be exploring much further in our ongoing work with Government officials.