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As Building Lives funding axed, KPMG holds talks with CITB to find solution

A 20-year-old man promised an apprenticeship under the Building Lives programme has told Construction News he feels disappointed and angry after the CITB stopped its funding.

Reece Keane, from Hounslow in west London, was last year promised an onsite apprenticeship with Building Lives.

He has since passed tests to get his CSCS card and was due to complete his Level 1 training this week, allowing him to start his apprenticeship.

“[Building Lives] said they were going to be putting me on site a few months ago, and only a couple of weeks ago they told me the funding’s been cut and everybody’s not getting any apprenticeships,” he said.

Construction News revealed last week that the CITB would no longer provide grant funding to award-winning charity Building Lives for a new intake of apprentices, putting 180 apprentices and 40 staff at risk.

Mr Keane turned to Building Lives after struggling on a maths and English course at West Thames College.

“I was doing entry level for maths and English, but that didn’t go very well because I wasn’t able to concentrate in the classes because of other people distracting me, so I didn’t really get anywhere.”

It’s like they sold us a dream and then they tell us this… I just don’t know what to do now”

Reece Keane

KPMG/CITB hold talks

KPMG has approached the CITB in an attempt to hammer out a deal to rescue Building Lives.

The CITB’s constitution means it is unable to provide funding for Building Lives, as the group does not pay a levy to the training board.

But working on a pro bono basis, KPMG said alternative approaches would be explored at a meeting with the CITB, scheduled to take place earlier this week.

“We want to explore whether there might be different ways of funding the organisation,” a source said.

 

Up until last month, he had been looking forward to starting a multi-skilled apprenticeship - including carpentry, bricklaying, tiling and plastering.

Mr Keane has since been offered a Level 1 traineeship with Building Lives, but said he was hesitant about taking it because he would have to pick a single trade, with no guarantee of a job.

“I didn’t know what to say really; I was quite angry to be fair.

“[Building Lives] offered me an apprenticeship and that’s what I was working towards, and now I can only pick one traineeship and, at the end of that, because it’s just a six-month course, I’m not guaranteed anything really.

“Everyone was so disappointed. It’s like they sold us a dream and then they tell us this… I just don’t know what to do now.”

He has been advised that to get an apprenticeship elsewhere, he would first have to go back to college to obtain GCSEs in English and maths, which he is now considering.

“I thought that I’d be able to get somewhere quicker than this,” he continued. “I’m so disappointed.

“I don’t mind going back to college because I want to try to better myself, and that’s what I was trying to do with the apprenticeship, and to be able to support my family.”

KPMG head of infrastructure, building and construction Richard Threlfall described the end of Building Lives’ funding as “a blow to the construction industry, especially at a time when the sector is crying out for skilled employees”.

He added: “Building Lives is an outstanding charity which, last year, supported 20 per cent of all the apprenticeships in London.”

However, Mr Threlfall said that it was “helpful that CITB have indicated that they are looking to find a solution” (see box).

CITB delivery and customer engagement director Carl Rhymer told Construction News that legislation prevented it from providing financial support to Building Lives, adding that the CITB was “unable to change these rules at will”.

“We have offered to help Building Lives to seek other funding, which Building Lives has declined”

Carl Rhymer, CITB

Mr Rhymer said “a standard verification process revealed that an in-scope employer had not complied with the grant scheme rules”.

Building Lives, set up by Lakehouse founder and former chief executive Steve Rawlings, had been drawing down on CITB grant funding through Lakehouse.

However, Building Lives itself is not eligible for funding, as it is not a CITB levy payer. “The CITB is fully supportive of what Building Lives is doing to help unemployed and disadvantaged people into the industry, but we are unable to change these rules at will.

“We have committed to support all apprentices currently training with Building Lives who were enrolled with CITB by January 2015, until they complete their training. And we have offered to help Building Lives to seek other funding, which Building Lives has declined.”

A CITB spokesperson said that funding for a Building Lives apprenticeships could continue “if an in-scope employer were to take on Building Lives apprentices”.

Last week, Mr Rawlings called for a change in the funding rules, saying it was “an issue government needs to address as well as the CITB”.

Building Lives won Training Initiative of the Year at the 2014 Construction News Awards.

 

Readers' comments (1)

  • Building lives are doing an excellent job, having personally run CITB Contracts within the Construction Industry, I do not understand why building lives employer supply chain should be levy payers. Looking at it from the angle of the SME some could not afford to become levy payers 1.5.% is a lot for a small business. My question is you have an organisation that is Industry led with a huge employer supply chain, but because of red tape are not being supported. Steve Rawlings and his team have a wealth of knowledge within the Construction Industry, and I am yet to meet anyone from the CITB that fully understands the employer requirements within the Construction sector. AS an employer myself I feel building lives should be fully supported. Seems to me its all about CITB securing a levy that an SME may never benefit from therefore they are disadvantaging these young people.

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