Is the CITB really fit for purpose?

5th October 2017

Recently, Leo Quinn, CEO of Balfour Beatty has undertaken a U-turn on his edict that Balfour will be voting against the continuation of the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) as the firm has ‘failed to deliver the skilled workers that the industry requires’.

It is interesting to see how the industry seems to be split on the issue. On the one hand, the Home Builders Federation say that they may be party to voting against. Yet other high profile CEOs, including Mark Reynolds of Mace, are insistent that the CITB must remain.

Set up in 1964 as a result of the 1964 Industrial Training Act, the CITB is responsible for setting standards and providing advice to firms within the construction industry. As a result of the Act which was further amended in 1982, construction employers are mandated to pay a levy. The levy is used to support training and skills across the industry.

According to it’s website, the CITB levy provides:

  • Financial support to employers
  • Advice for employers regarding training needs
  • Information, advice and guidance for those seeking careers in construction
  • Research including labour market forecasting to anticipate and plan for skills needs
  • Qualifications & standards for the industry
  • Specialist training facilities and services

Yet, across the industry, many people share the view that the CITB needs to be replaced by something that is fit for purpose. It is very likely the overwhelming majority of self-employed workers within the construction industry will strongly support this view.

Accessing benefits described by the CITB, without paying through the nose for them, is nigh on impossible unless you work for a reasonably large organisation who pay the CITB levy. Then there is the CSCS / CPCS scheme, which is widely thought of as a sham for a number of reasons, including:

The cost of obtaining a CPCS certification is almost double the cost of a NPORS certification. Yet both qualifications cover the same syllabus, over the same timescales, and are assessed by the same trainers. Why?

CITB Accredited H&S awareness courses are incredibly expensive. The cheapest online at the moment is around £120 including VAT and this is a pre-requisite before you can even drive a broom on most main contractors’ sites. Why?

CSCS cards are expensive, proven to be open to fraud and incredibly difficult to renew if there has been a lapse. Why?

Evolution5’s Managing Director Jamie Barrett, is a former trustee of the CIOB and commented.

“Despite the political and economic disruption over the last 18 months added to the uncertainty of Brexit, the Construction Industry is expected to grow over the next five years. This puts even more pressure on our current skills shortage situation and means that the CITB, or whatever organisation is created in its place, will need to ensure it delivers the right outcomes for industry, not just for today but for the future. It is my view that whilst the focus is on the CITB, the Construction Leadership Council has not done enough to provide the vision and leadership to the industry to avoid such situation. The Skills Work Stream is almost non-existent and CLC position on ensuring that “industry benefits form the Apprenticeship Levy” will remain to be seen. Perhaps the CLC present relevance and future should also be reviewed, if we are to create a better future for our industry.”

It seems as though the CITB has managed to do exactly the opposite of what it was set up to do. It has put up barriers to entry into the construction industry as opposed to encourage more people to join. Whilst their remit is to encourage more people to join an industry badly affected by a huge skills shortage, it has failed to help plug that skills gap. The CITB continue to make it difficult, and therefore unappealing, for people to enter construction.

The CITB will never be fit for purpose while it put restrictions on new entrants to the industry and treats them, and the self-employed, as cash cows. The top 10, 20 or even 50 contractors are not going to employ enough new recruits between them to address the skills shortage and the CITB or whatever comes next needs to be for more inclusive in approach.