Unite warns industry not to throw ‘baby out with the bathwater’ as industry considers CITB future

Unite, the UK’s largest construction union, is calling on industry to seriously consider before voting to end the existing construction training levy and threatening the future of the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB).

It is currently a critical time for the CITB’s future. The Government has recently given the go-ahead for the CITB to continue to collect the industry levy but this is subject to a positive vote from construction bodies and this is ‘consensus’ process is currently underway. In the past week both Balfour Beatty and the Home Builders Federation have indicated that they will not support the continued collection of the levy.

However although Unite has concerns about aspects of the CITB’s operation the union believes that the organisations role in managing apprenticeship training and ensuring it is of a good quality is critical. If the organisation was to disappear then the existing skills crisis in the construction industry would worsen and the overall quality of construction apprentices would decline.

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail, said: “The industry is in danger of throwing the baby out with the bath water. The CITB is not perfect but if it was to disappear the effect on construction would be devastating

Unite believes that the CITB’s training grants schemes need to be radically reviewed, in order for more money to be focussed on companies that directly employ construction workers and less money is provided to major companies who often employ few if any construction workers and use the funding for other forms of training. Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) currently employ 65 per cent of construction apprentices

Last year the CITB had total income of £311 million. Its largest area of expenditure was its charitable training grants scheme which accounted for £153 million. Major construction companies receive the largest grants, the companies which received the largest amount of CITB funding were Carillion £6.9 million, Kier £5.2 million and O’Rourke Investments Ltd £3 million.

Unite is also concerned that the CITB’s governance structure is not fit for purpose as the organisation’s board does not possess the experience and knowledge to effectively champion apprenticeship standards, training and the skills requirement needed in the industry. Organisations such as unions which have championed increasing the number of quality apprentices, have been excluded from both the CITB’s Board and its Council.

Unite supports the continuation of a reformed CITB as allowing private providers free rein to set apprenticeship frameworks would lead to a decrease in quality and an erosion of standards.

Gail Cartmail, assistant general secretary of Unite, said:

“If the CITB is going to be able to cope with the challenges that the industry faces in the coming years, it needs to be radically reformed.

“For too long smaller companies which actually employ construction workers have felt they have been denied grants which are too often given to the major contractors, who have the expertise of applying for grants but employ few if any construction workers.

“Until the CITB is properly reformed and its governance structure represents the key stakeholders in the industry, including unions, professional institutes, employers’ associations and SMEs there will continue to be distrust towards the organisation.

“The CITB must create the impression it is operating in the national interest and not in the interests of big business.”