The CITB needs more than a bit of a shake-up to make it function for the companies it serves
It’s time to shoot the CITB and put it out of its misery. There’s simply very little goodwill left for it, and the rubber-stamped reforms will make little difference to the inadequate status quo. Here’s why.
First, former chief construction adviser Paul Morrell’s recent review of the CITB concluded that it’s not fit for purpose, hasn’t been for some time and needs wholesale structural and cultural reform.
Second, there’s a plan to scale the organisation right back to its core, lose hundreds of jobs and outsource its training provision – which, in turn, changes the terms of its outdated, antiquated levy payment system.
A large proportion of companies resent paying the levy, view it as a training tax, see no return on investment and have little appetite to continue to support it
Third, a large proportion of companies resent paying the levy, view it as a training tax, see no return on investment and have little appetite to continue to support it on the basis of CITB becoming a nimble, facilitating organisation with little firepower. The feedback has been that it’s like giving to a bad charity.And finally, Morrell says himself that any reform cannot succeed unless the industry gets with the programme – which it won’t – and because there is no such thing as an industry but just collections of fed-up companies operating in different specialisms.
So, where do we go? First there will be a queue of “industry leaders” lining up to condemn this thinking. After all, we have a skills crisis, right? It’s irresponsible. There’s a lost generation of young people without skilled jobs, and capacity issues in a sector critical to GDP. We must surely take a strategic view to solving a perennial problem, especially with Brexit looming. It must be, by any logic, retrograde thinking to scrap it.
The counter argument continues that the consultation for the reform has been wide ranging, due process has taken place, and a consensus has been reached. There’s an expectation that the reforms will be a success.
And then a new, very capable CITB chief executive will implement radical change while jobs are displaced and presumably swathes of land sold off where CITB headquarters currently reside in sunny Norfolk – which will, no doubt, make way for much needed, valuable housing. We’ll all carry on again, albeit with a smaller CITB based in shiny, new, modern digital offices in the innovation epicentre known as Peterborough.
The problem is that nothing will change and the result will be the same, if not worse.
For many, this alternative is not a very good deal. Notwithstanding the local MP Sir Henry Bellingham’s fury at the impact on west Norfolk, the whole premise of a reduction in direct training is counterintuitive.
The problem is that nothing will change and the result will be the same, if not worse
Here’s how it is: You continue to pay. You get less direct training. But you can feel comfortable in that you’re investing in the identification of skills needs in specific regions and trades, which will likely make not a blind bit of difference to you and your company’s bottom line. Oh, and you might finally get a CITB chief executive who will shout loudly on television when a minister opens a new off-site training factory in Preston at election time.
It just doesn’t wash.
Morrell’s diagnosis is sound, but the medicine is old thinking. The state should probably focus on regulating building control better, but in this instance it should let the market rule.
If tech companies and big data providers can get you a cab from your mobile by the touch of a button at a fraction of the cost – then it’s not beyond the realms of possibility for them to work out how to combine online learning with face-to-face training in pop-up locations in areas of need. There’s an opportunity to make a difference through digital disruption and innovation. The reason the establishment – and that includes trade bodies – will not campaign for it is that they are terrified their own profile and business models may be disrupted along the route.
The CITB reforms should be torn up and thrown in the bin. And a whole new, commercially led think-group of innovators and disruptors should be established to solve the skills crisis and tackle its training requirements. The state role should be simply to establish the conditions, parameters and climate to make that happen as quickly possible – as opposed to enforcing a tax on the sector that hardly anyone really wants.