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Building Lives ‘does not sit within grant scheme rules’, CITB says as chairman faces £1m bill

Exclusive: The CITB has withdrawn grant funding from construction training charity Building Lives, with 180 apprenticeships and 40 jobs at risk.

The award-winning charity is at risk of closure after it was informed this month that CITB would not provide grant funding for a new intake of apprentices.

The registered charity, set up by Lakehouse founder and former chief executive Steve Rawlings, provides construction training and apprenticeships and was on track to train more than 500 unemployed Londoners this year.

It now has 180 ‘hard-to-reach’ recruits who are undertaking Level 1 pre-employment training, but who are now at risk of not getting an apprenticeship due to the withdrawal of funding.

The CITB has committed to support 55 apprentices already training with Building Lives who were enrolled with the CITB before January 2015 until they complete their training.

The organisation, which employs 40 staff and is working with 300 learners, may also be forced to shut down unless it can find an alternative source to provide £2m of funding.

“With all that government and the industry are saying, it’s incredible that an organisation like the CITB just said no”

Steve Rawlings, Building Lives

CITB delivery and customer engagement director Carl Rhymer said the decision not to fund a new intake of apprentices was taken because Building Lives “is not an ‘in scope’ employer, it does not sit within the Grant Scheme Rules”.

To be an ‘in scope’ employer is to comply with the terms set out in the parliamentary act that established the CITB in 1964 and, broadly speaking, to be employers in the construction industry.

Building Lives chairman Mr Rawlings claimed the CITB had withdrawn its funding on “a technicality”, because the charity is not a levy payer.

He said Building Lives is an apprenticeship training agency, in which Lakehouse - a levy payer - is a partner, and its apprentices are given joint contracts.

He told Construction News: “I’m personally so disappointed. The industry is crying out for training and apprenticeships.

“With all that government and the industry are saying [about the need for apprenticeships], it’s incredible that an organisation like the CITB just said no.”

Mr Rawlings, who is personally paying for the charity’s operations, added that he is at risk of losing up to £1m of his own money by continuing to fund the apprentices and the charity himself.

“We work with the hard-to-reach. To think that [we have people who] are engaged, they’ve signed up and are committed, and now they’re going to be left [without an apprenticeship]… I’ve no intention of leaving them.”

National Housing Federation chief executive David Orr, a trustee of the Building Lives Foundation, said the government should change the rules for funding apprenticeships in the construction industry.

“This is an issue government needs to address as well as CITB”

David Orr, National Housing Federation

He told Construction News: “The CITB is saying their rules don’t allow them to provide the funding because Building Lives is not a levy payer.

“If that’s what the rules are, and they have the potential to stop such a great organisation, then it’s not Building Lives that should be changing, it’s looking at the rules.

“This is an issue government needs to address as well as CITB.”

Building Lives said it will need an investment of £2m to bridge the gap caused by the withdrawal of CITB funding.

It is considering whether it could partner with an FE college, which could access Skills Funding Agency apprenticeship funding, to continue providing training.

The charity is in the process of adapting its delivery model to provide shorter, more intense construction training courses targeting trades with severe shortages in the capital.

It is aiming to provide the skills the industry needs and allow young people to earn a full salary rather than an apprenticeship wage.

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