Industry leaders warn about mounting uncertainty over apprenticeship organization’s future


Industry leaders have expressed fears that mounting uncertainty over the CITB’s future could jeopardise construction firms’ training plans, amid speculation the government’s apprenticeships shake-up will “kill-off” the CITB.

Last week the government launched a detailed consultation on its plans for a new apprenticeship levy on all large firms, as part of the government’s pledge to provide 3 million apprenticeships by 2020.

The consultation document makes it clear the government is considering scrapping existing levy systems, including the levy on construction firms that funds the CITB. It states: “The apprenticeship levy will be economy wide and larger employers in the construction and engineering construction industries will be in scope of the levy alongside all other larger employers in the UK economy.

“On that basis government and the industries need to decide how best the existing levy arrangements respond to the apprenticeship levy.”

One option the government is considering is having construction firms pay both levies, with apprenticeships funded through the new levy and the CITB picking up other training services.

However, Alasdair Reisner, chief executive of the Civil Engineering Contractors Assocation, suggested that option is unviable.

He said: “While our industry is familiar with the concept of levy-payment, we struggle to see to how these proposals will work alongside the existing CITB levy, which funds training and development across a wide range of activities.”

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said firms are left in the dark over the levy plans, and expressed his concern over the future of the CITB.

He said: “It’s created a lot of uncertainty about how much businesses are going to pay.”

Another source told Building: “This kills the CITB, no doubt about it. There’s no way people are going to pay two levies. Putting this levy in is a neat way of killing off the CITB.

“The perception in government is that the CITB has failed because of the skills shortages in the market.”

Steven Radley, director of policy at the CITB, admitted the proposed new levy will “undoubtedly mean change for the CITB”, but insisted the training body is “making real improvements” which “should make a big difference” to the industry.

He said: “The proposed apprenticeships levy will undoubtedly mean change for the CITB, but we have already set ourselves on a course of change.

“We need to ensure that the whole of the industry, both large and small firms, gets the necessary support to deliver apprenticeships and the rest of its skills needs.

“CITB is making real improvements in how we identify and support industry’s skills needs, which should make a big difference to a growing construction industry.”

The government confirmed the CITB will consult with the industry before the apprenticeship levy is introduced. The all-industry levy is set to come into force from April 2017.