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Skills shortages, training opportunities & the CITB: Is it part of the solution – or part of the problem?

I recently read an opinion by the boss of Berkeley Homes saying London alone needs a further 200,000 building workers just to deliver homes for the capital.

The article went on to say that even though Berkeley has doubled its number of apprentices, the impact of Brexit along with the issue of an aging workforce threatens to leave the industry with an enormous skills shortage.

A few days later, I also read about a survey commissioned by the Construction Industry Training Board that shattered the myth that foreign workers are low paid and low skilled. Apparently research company IFF interviewed 248 migrant workers, 401 employers and 50 recruitment agencies to come to this conclusion.

The first thing that struck me was that the CITB could have saved the fee they gave to IFF simply by picking up the phone and having a chat with Rob Perrins at Berkeley.   And just think, the research cash could have provided additional training grants for the apprentices our industry so badly needs…

A skills shortage that exists only south of Watford?

When we talk about the skills shortage, it is London – of course – that is at the sharp end of the skills.  At a recent forum for construction firms in Manchester, firms reported that they had sufficient tradespeople to fulfil their contracts, and that their labour force was sourced within a 20-mile radius.

They also disagreed with Berkeley Homes about the impact of Brexit, saying that for now, at least, the country’s forthcoming exit from the EU is having no impact on their ability to accept work.

So is the skills shortage only evident in London and the South-East?

Given that the construction industry has been saddled with a training board since the 1960s, I think the pertinent question is:   “What impact does the CITB have on the availability of training?” 

And the answer?  The CITB’s influence on skills training continues to diminish . . . and today, rather than being part of the solution, they could actually be part of the problem. 

The Board’s 2016 accounts have just been published.  They:

  • Raised £198m from the Levy
  • Spent £34m on their own costs
  • Distributed a Return on Levy Paid of only 63% to medium, small and micro businesses

Former Chief Construction Adviser Paul Morrell, who is now investigating construction industry training provision at the request of Robert Halfon, the former Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills has asked:  “If the CITB wasn’t there, how would training be encouraged or increased?”  The outcomes will now be reviewed by Anne Milton who was appointed into the role in June 2017. 

One view, voiced by many, is simply to scrap the CITB Levy and grant, to enable SMEs to increase their own training budgets by as much as 50%.

Another idea is for the Government to introduce a tax credit scheme, as they have for Research and Development, to enhance the amount demonstrably spent on training by all firms.

I know for a fact that a large number of Hudson Contract clients support both suggestions, as do I.

 

 

 

David Jackson

David Jackson

Founder & Chairman, Hudson Contract

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