CITB given ‘last chance’ to reform and address Scottish discontent



Brian Berry
Brian Berry

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has called on the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) to better recognise Scotland’s “high-quality” construction apprenticeships as it backed the continuation of the training body.

Submitting it official letter to the CITB’s chief executive Sarah Beale, the FMB announced its qualified support for the CITB as part of the consensus process despite its members being “dissatisfied” with its performance.

The FMB said the CITB has one last chance to fundamentally reform and start facilitating quality training en masse among the construction industry’s smaller firms.

It also called on CITB to review its staffing and committees in order to work more positively with Scottish construction employers.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “FMB members are divided regarding the future of CITB – some want to see it continue and others want to see it abolished but all agree that it is not currently working for the industry’s smaller firms. Yes, the FMB has decided to give its support for the continuation of the levy but we do not want this support to be interpreted as support for the status quo. The CITB is broken and we must all pitch in to ensure we fix it. The stakes couldn’t be higher because unless we get this right, the construction skills crisis will continue to worsen and the government will be unable to meet its ambitious house building and infrastructure objectives.”

The FMB’s support for the continuation of the CITB levy was given with the following provisos:

  • Governance – the main priority for the CITB in the coming weeks must be to embark on a thorough review of its governance. The CITB Board is made up of eight individuals and only one of whom comes from an SME firm. Further still, this person is a Human Resources professional as opposed to someone with an SME contractor background. Given that SME firms make up 98% of the construction industry and train two-thirds of all apprentices, the FMB wants to see this reflected at Board level with at least half of its members being SME contractor representatives. SME representation on the CITB Council is not enough – we want to see SME representatives at the very 2 top of the organisation. If we get the governance structure right, the CITB will automatically start to better reflect the needs of small construction firms. In a recent survey of FMB members, 61% said that the CITB would become more effective if it ensured the majority of representatives on the CITB Board were from small or micro construction firms. It is the FMB’s understanding that a recommendation to increase SME representation on the CITB Board will also be reflected in the Government’s ITB Review which is expected to be published in October 2017.
  • Simplification of grant scheme – too few SME levy payers are claiming back CITB grant and this is because the process is too complicated and bureaucratic. The CITB needs to make all of its processes as simple and straightforward as possible. Unlike larger firms, most SMEs cannot afford to employ people who dedicate their time to drafting their CITB grant applications in order to ensure the firm maximises all opportunities to claim back grants. If we want SMEs to train more apprentices and upskill their workforce, all forms of the CITB grant funding pots need to be as easy to access as the new CITB Flexible Fund.
  • Quality – the CITB needs to be a champion of high-quality training right across GB, particularly in relation to apprenticeships. In a recent survey of FMB members in England, 72% said they would be more likely to train an apprentice if the quality of training improved and 66% say that the quality of apprenticeship training has decreased over the past 30 years. The CITB must therefore work positively with employers, federations and government agencies to increase the quality of apprenticeship standards and training. Only then will we improve the image of vocational training and ensure apprenticeships are once again viewed as the gold standard. The FMB would like to see apprenticeship training in England and Wales emulate the high standard of apprenticeship training currently delivered in Scotland.
  • Level playing field – the CITB should work with the Government to develop a new approach to how levy is collected from the construction industry. It is important that all firms which should be paying CITB levy, are paying CITB levy. At present, this is not the case and it is giving nonregistered levy payers a competitive advantage over registered levy payers who are doing the right thing. It could be that CITB levy is taken at source in a similar manner to the Apprenticeship Levy.
  • Scotland – the CITB must recognise that skills and apprenticeships are devolved matters and better reflect this in the organisation. For example, there should be a CITB Head of Apprenticeships in Scotland specifically, rather than a GB-wide Head of Apprenticeships who covers all three nations. Scottish apprenticeship training is the envy of the rest of the UK and these high-quality construction apprenticeships are what the FMB has been trying to work towards in England via the Trailblazer initiative. Scottish apprenticeships are longer, more thorough and include the skills test at the end which must be protected. There is a high level of discontent with the CITB among FMB members in Scotland and in order for the CITB to work more positively with Scottish construction employers, it needs to review its staffing and committees.
  • Greater good – the CITB must work for the greater good of the whole construction industry. Grants must be invested strategically and where it is most needed. It must not be used to placate certain sub-sectors of the construction industry and levy payments should never be ring-fenced for particular parts of the industry.

Mr Berry added: “Crucial to the future success of the CITB is a review of its governance structure. It is shocking that the CITB Board contains only one representative from an SME construction firm. Furthermore, this individual is a Human Resources professional rather than someone with an SME contractor background. Given that SME firms make up 98% of the construction industry and train two-thirds of all apprentices, the FMB wants to see this reflected at Board level with at least half of its members being SME contractor representatives.

“If we get the governance structure right, the CITB will automatically start to better reflect the needs of small construction firms. In a recent survey of FMB members, 61% said that the CITB would become more effective if it ensured the majority of representatives on the CITB Board were from small or micro construction firms. It is the FMB’s understanding that a recommendation to increase SME representation on the CITB Board will also be reflected in the Government’s ITB Review which is expected to be published in October 2017.

“The need for reform doesn’t end with the CITB’s governance – we also need to see a simplification of the grant scheme. Too few SME levy payers are claiming back CITB grants and this is because the process is too complicated and bureaucratic. The CITB needs to make all of its processes as simple and straightforward as possible. Unlike larger firms, most SMEs cannot afford to employ people who dedicate their time to drafting CITB grant applications in order to ensure their firm maximises all opportunities to claim back grants. If we want SMEs to train more apprentices and upskill their workforce, all forms of CITB grant funding pots need to be as easy to access as the new CITB Flexible Fund.”

Tags: CITB, FMB



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