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Balfour chief: 'The industry should only pay one training levy'

Construction companies should only be forced to pay one training levy in the future, Balfour Beatty’s chief executive has said.

The head of the UK’s largest contractor Leo Quinn said the industry needed firms paying into one training pot.  

The government’s economy-wide scheme will see all companies with a PAYE bill above £3m pay 0.5 per cent of anything above that level into the government apprenticeship levy fund from next month. Meanwhile qualifying construction firms currently pay 0.5 per cent of PAYE bills to the CITB.

Mr Quinn said: “As an industry we need to strike a balance between all of the CITB levy, the apprenticeship levy and our own personal investment.

“We have got to get to a stage where we are only paying once and [where] that payment is effective in giving the outputs we need.”

Mr Quinn, who leads the skills council for the Construction Leadership Council, said he supported the cross-industry apprenticeship levy and said anything that helps young people get into work and build their skills could only be positive.

Nevertheless, he said the government and training body the CITB should come to an agreement so the apprenticeship levy and the contribution to the CITB came under one payment.

He said: “We need to rationalise the levies and get it set at the right level for the construction industry.

“At the moment we seem to have too many levies.”

The comments come ahead of the CITB seeking a Levy Order from the government to allow it to continue to receive money from construction firms to invest in training. The body earlier this year outlined plans to slash the sums it charges construction firms by up to a third.

A number of sources have told Construction News that the CITB faces its biggest challenge yet in persuading the industry to back its continued existence.

Mr Quinn said that while changes needed to be made there was still a place for a reformed CITB.

He said: “We do need a CITB but it just needs to be in a form that works for the industry.”

The comments came as Balfour Beatty posted its full-year results for the year ending 31 December 2016.

Over the 12 months, Balfour recruited a total of 114 apprentices and 110 graduate trainees, with 4.3 per cent of its workforce in earn-and-learn positions.

This was a slight reduction on the number for 2015 and still below Balfour Beatty’s goal of 5 per cent.

Mr Quinn said that despite the dip, the company was still the market leader in investing in apprentices and graduates.

Mr Quinn founded the 5% Club three years ago with an aim of making its members commit to ensuring 5 per cent of its headcount was on a formalised apprenticeship, sponsored student or graduate programme.

Last month it was reported that Mr Quinn donated 5 per cent of his £800,000 basic salary to the initiative to secure the scheme’s finances.

Commenting on the club, he said today: “The thing about the club is it’s not whether you get to 5 per cent 4 per cent; it’s about are we as a corporation responsible in wanting to invest in the youth of tomorrow.”

 

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