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CN Briefing: CITB; Robert Halfon; Paul Morrell; apprenticeships; skills

Today, the CITB and the construction industry were given a final chance to prove why the industry levy – and the organisation – must be retained.

The government has commissioned Paul Morrell to carry out a review of the organisation.

Mr Morrell is an excellent choice for the role, and though I do feel the industry spends too much time reviewing and reporting and not enough time actually being heard, this particular research is needed and could ensure long-lasting change in the industry.

On the back of the Farmer Review, and with a new levy order due in 2018, the CITB’s status must now be determined once and for all.

The skills debate is too important and the clamour for change is now reaching a crescendo.

If the CITB is the right organisation to work with industry on rectifying its skills issues, great. If not, let’s figure out what works better.

The CITB is an organisation that divides opinion. It is doing much to reform internally, and certainly publicising that fact, but doesn’t appear to be winning hearts and minds on the ground.

When we publish the CITB’s view of how it can improve and contribute in a more productive manner to the skills debate, I inevitably get emails criticising our decision to publish them.

Shortly after publishing a piece on the government’s decision to task Paul Morrell with a review of the organisation, this arrived in my inbox: “It would be interesting to know what real reform the CITB can think of; they are currently presenting ideas for tweaking around the edges at employer forums, which are not well received or even understood by audiences – but CITB being CITB they put out PR pieces such as ‘choose change’ but seem to be plodding on regardless.”

The positive in this review is that Paul Morrell not only has the respect of Whitehall mandarins, but has led his own review leading to significant change before: the Innovation and Growth Team’s 2010 Low Carbon Construction report, not to mention the first government construction strategy.

His recommendation that the government mandate BIM led to a step-change in the way the public sector procured projects.

The motive at the time (given that BIM wasn’t ‘new’) was that it should help to drive down costs and improve collaboration, something Mr Morrell may feel has been lost slightly in the ensuing BIMwash.

But the report got the ear of government and led to an acknowledgement they could demand more of the industry. Businesses then started to change their attitudes pretty quickly (I say ‘start’, as the process is by no means complete).

The Farmer Review has led to criticism in parts, particularly from developers. But today the skills minister referenced it when he announced Mr Morrell’s appointment.

This could be a watershed moment for the 54-year-old CITB and, in turn, the future of the construction industry.

Got 5 minutes?

The government has tweaked aspects of the new Apprenticeship Levy, and the changes appear to have been the right ones.

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