After a new government apprenticeships levy on large employers was announced by chancellor George Osborne last week, some commentators have called into question the CITB-managed construction industry levy.
So what has the levy ever done for construction?
Well, in more than 50 years it has paid out in excess of £2.3bn in grants.
It has helped train well over half a million apprentices and supported a massive 1.3m people in passing a vocational qualification.
It has provided cards for more than four million workers, making sure people on site have the right skills and accreditation.
And it has paid for tens of thousands of visits to young people and SMEs by apprenticeship officers, careers advisers and company development officers, helping secure the future of the industry.
The levy has allowed construction to retain talent during the hard times, and enabled us to flourish when times are good.
Despite this, construction faces significant skill shortages.
“The construction levy and grant system requires significant reform to make it simpler to access and more responsive”
This reflects three key facts that will feed into discussions with government about the planned apprenticeship levy.
Firstly, a levy alone cannot address all of the industry’s skill needs.
Secondly, the construction levy and grant system requires significant reform to make it simpler to access and more responsive to industry needs.
Thirdly, we need to look afresh at how construction invests in apprenticeships if we are to meet the skills challenge the industry faces.
Not a like-for-like
It is also important to remember that there are significant differences between what is being proposed and how the construction levy operates.
Clearly, how our levy interacts with the new system needs to be sorted out.
We will be playing a full role in the consultation to ensure we get the best solution for construction and for apprenticeships.
Our experience can also offer insights into how to make any new system a success.
Any new levy must:
- Have industry buy-in;
- Reduce barriers to participation in training;
- Support high-quality training that is relevant to employers – they must feel training providers understand their needs.
Robust forecasting is also needed, as, without this, we run the risk of training people for the wrong jobs, which would be a terrible waste of talent.
Quality forecasting must be matched by quality apprenticeships which meet market demand.
“Construction’s levy has done a great deal for our industry, but it can only be part of an overall solution to the skills challenge”
They must be suited to the key skill needs of employers – whether small and medium-sized enterprises or those paying the proposed new levy.
We will only achieve this by fully involving employers in this process.
We should recognise that the construction levy has done a great deal for our industry, but it can only be part of an overall solution to the skills challenge our economy faces.
We will be working closely with government to help shape an approach that will deliver for our economy and for the next generation of apprenticeships.
Steve Radley is director of policy at CITB