Serious questions have been raised about the future of training in the construction industry, already plagued with skills’ shortages, as the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) is set to axe more than 30 percent of its staff.
Unite, the country’s largest union with 50,000 members in the sector, fears that the highly regarded training provided by the CITB will be outsourced to profit-hungry private providers which would have an adverse impact on training.
This would leave the CITB as a hollowed out commissioning organisation that just distributed funds to providers – but did no training itself. This would strongly mitigate against the ethos and intentions of the 1964 Industrial Training Act that gave the then minister of labour statutory powers to create industrial training boards.
The organisation has announced a major restructure which will see its workforce fall from 1,400 to 950 by 2018, though it is not yet clear how many will go at its Bircham Newton headquarters in Norfolk, where 680 people are employed. This has prompted the Labour leader of the county council Cllr George Nobbs to write to the minister for skills Nick Boles calling for support.
Unite said there is no logic in cutting CITB training when the UK construction industry is expected to grow by two and a half percent each year until 2020, creating an extra 232,000 jobs over the normal turnover of labour expected for that period. There were about 12,000 vacancies in construction in 2015 that were hard to fill due to the lack of skilled applicants.
In a letter to the CITB, Unite national officer for construction John Allott said: “The present planned route of travel looks more and more like an organisation which is going to collect and distribute funds. This business model will not be sustainable long term and will only lead to the organisation’s death in the longer term.
“Everything is inextricably linked, with good reason, to ensure a cohesive skills infrastructure is there to meet the demands of the industry and its allied sectors.”
John Allott called on the board of the CITB, established in 1964, to reconsider these cuts: “A training board that does not deliver training is like a pub that does not serve beer – in the end, it closes”, he added.
Unite regional coordinating officer for the eastern region Mark Robinson said: “Those working at the coal face at the organisation to deliver a first class service to a sector of the economy that is growing are confused and demoralised by the news.
“The CITB bosses have already started the cutbacks. Currently the board is creating a universal ‘advisor role’ which will combine the work currently done by three different types of advisors. A total of 112 people are affected with only 66 roles going forward.”