Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to the newest version of your browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of Construction News, please enable cookies in your browser.

Welcome to the Construction News site. As we have relaunched, you will have to sign in once now and agree for us to use cookies, so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

CITB failings mean time has come for state intervention

In 1962, a government white paper found there were skills shortages because of a market failure in training. The solution appeared to be a levy system to fund industrial training boards (ITBs).

The CITB is one of only three left today. It has survived because the CITB assures the secretary of state who signs off on it that there is a majority industry consensus in support of the levy.

According to the CITB’s own data, however, only 15 per cent of the 70,000 levy-payers are actually members of the consensus federations that underpin this claim. That’s why I feel the CITB’s strategy is out of step with industry demands.

After 60 years, you’d have thought the CITB levy would have solved the problem of skills shortages in the construction industry. But as we all know, the skills shortages in levyable activities such as bricklaying and plastering are worse than in exempt trades such as plumbing and electrical contracting, somewhat ironically.

Misguided mindset

Many would say that when the CITB provides training, it does a great job. The problem is that it believes its function is to raise the levy and distribute grants, rather than to do what it is great at and what the industry desperately needs.

The levy and grant scheme is actually separate to the most important activity the CITB provides and that everyone values: training. They bring in fees and make a healthy profit.

“After 60 years of failing to have an impact on the skills shortage the CITB was established to tackle, maybe government intervention is required again”

For example, the CITB’s 2015 accounts show a profit of £14m made from functions such as the administration of the CSCS card scheme, the provision of training courses, and work as an awarding organisation. These are all things that are welcome to the construction industry, and none of them depend one whit on the levy.

So if the CITB was to concentrate on making money from training, it would be growing in a direction everyone would want to see. Unfortunately, this is the opposite of the organisation’s current strategy.

After 60 years of failing to have an impact on the skills shortage the CITB was established to tackle, maybe government intervention is required again – this time to relieve the CITB of the burden of levy-collection so it can focus on providing the training and services the construction industry values and needs.

Ian Anfield is managing director of professional services supplier Hudson 

Note: Hudson Contract Services named the CITB as an ’interested party’ in a case brought against BIS challenging the legality of changes to the CITB’s levy system.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Tony Willson

    The Opinion of Ian Anfield states that the CITB has failed to solve ‘the problem of industry skill shortages’. Surely this is rubbish? When recessions come, it is the industry that lays off masses of labour (as they have to, just to survive), this then lasts for 5 or so years when there is no recruitment and then the work starts to come in - and everyone complains that there is a labour shortage!
    What on earth does Mr Anfield think that CITB can do to address these shortages when they are imposed, almost on a cyclical basis, by the very sector that he works in?
    I am no great fan of CITB but I am aware that they are actively addressing the fact that construction is not seen as a valid career in schools and are trying to ‘sell’ it to misinformed teachers so that youngsters consider it with a wider view than that it is just digging holes somewhere in the rain.
    The pressure that they put on companies to take on Apprentices is unrelenting - and so it should be. But even with the generous Grants available, if companies don’t want to have Apprentices, how can CITB do anything about it?
    As for the suggestion that CITB should provide training courses to make its money and it would then be growing in a direction that ‘everyone would want to see’, this is a generalisation which is not borne out by the many construction companies with whom we deal.
    One of the best things that CITB have done over the last 5 years is to fund the Construction Training Groups, of which there are now 80 odd around the country. These are non-profit making organisations, run by committees made up of people from local construction businesses. They receive grants from CITB to provide relevant, cheap training for their members. These are proving to be an asset for Levy Payers as well as for the CITB as they get involved in lots of activities, the most important of which is going into schools, career events and generally singing the praises of the industry.
    That is what the industry needs, not another training provider.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The CITB agree that its time for a debate about its role and the relevance of a levy and grant scheme. Change is on the way, and employers need to have their say.

    To answer the points raised by Tony... The CITB is already a training provider charging for services, and it could continue to provide advice and discounts to training groups regardless of the levy.

    The majority of the 2,000 construction employers that I work with are happy to invest in skills and carry out unfunded training regardless of the levy. They tell me that they need those skills and compliance training is mandatory, the levy is not a deciding factor.

    You have to ask whether improving the industry's image with parents, pupils and careers teachers is justification for an industry wide levy, and if it is - why after 60 years of doing this work has it not succeeded, maybe a fresh approach is needed.

    In 1962 government established the ITBs to solve the problems caused by cyclical demand for workers. I think we are agreed, and history tells us, that the CITB - with or without a levy - cannot achieve this.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.