Leo Quinn says the skills crisis shows the training board hasn’t been fulfilling its role

Balfour Beatty is likely to vote against the continued existence of the CITB, its chief executive has said.

Leo Quinn argued that industry training boards need the same accountability as the companies that pay their levies, which is not currently the case.

The CITB is facing its triennial consensus, where construction companies vote on whether the organisation can continue collecting the training levy from them. Voting ends on 29 September, with an announcement on the outcome in November.

Last month, government ministers backed continuation of the CITB but said it needed to reform.

But Quinn said that “the industry has little idea what the specific reforms are” and observed that “this is not the first instance of the industry being told CITB will reform itself”.

In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, the Balfour CEO said: “Currently, the CITB occupies a pivotal role in providing all of us in the sector with the skilled workers we need. Bluntly, the present skills shortage shows it hasn’t been doing this for some time.

“CITB has a fundamental governance weakness: it is not closely and regularly accountable to the industry it exists to serve.”

Quinn said construction needed more confidence in the board’s planned reforms.

“Given that CITB raises £200m a year via the levy, the lack of detail in the information it has provided to date is truly concerning.

“We are voting in the dark, recommitting to a levy – and thus to an organisation, whose potential ongoing failure would have a major impact on future economic growth.”

He added: “Based on the information released by the CITB to date, we have little basis for confidence and strongly believe this is too important to leave to chance. Which is why Balfour Beatty is likely to vote against consensus.

“Before making a final decision, however, we ask one more time to see detailed information in relation to the reform and governance issues raised above. In brief, we need a new mechanism that provides an effective check on CITB’s delivery and clear sanctions in the case of failure.

“The stakes are too high for us to sleepwalk over the skills cliff.”

In response, Sarah Beale, CEO of the CITB, said: “We agree that CITB needs to see through its reforms, and that the industry needs to be able to hold CITB more strongly to account. Reform of CITB has already started and full details of our complete reform plan will be shared in November, ensuring full alignment to the ITB review recommendations.

“Our biggest ever industry consultation held this spring suggests that a majority of firms, including the smaller employers that dominate our industry, broadly welcome CITB’s reforms. These include streamlining what we do to provide better value for levy payers, embracing the modernisation agenda to help all construction firms become more productive, and ensuring that standards, training, support for careers and our reformed grants scheme are in place to meet industry’s key skill needs.

“We have also made it clear that we will work closely with our industry, with employers of all sizes and across Britain, to agree our objectives and to ensure that we are held to account in delivering them. We are confident that a reformed CITB, with active support and challenge from industry, will be well-placed to meet construction’s challenges ahead.”