FMB says CITB’s future is “dependent on fundamental change”; CITB accepts it “must act now” to make this happen

The Government’s decision to support the continuation of CITB is the right decision for our industry, but only if it is subject to fundamental reform, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

Responding to a letter from Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Anne Milton MP to CITB, Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), said: “We now have some official indication of the Government’s position following its review of the CITB and the FMB supports the general direction of travel. Most people agree that the CITB had lost its way but scrapping it altogether would only make the construction skills crisis worse. What we now want to see is for the CITB leadership to embrace a culture of change until we’ve reformed the organisation from head to toe.”

Berry continued: “It’s slightly frustrating that we won’t see the detailed content of the Government’s CITB review until after the consensus process has come to an end. We are particularly keen to see some recommendations regarding the need for a governance review as the current structure is not fit-for-purpose. When you look at the make-up of our industry, 99% of firms are small and medium-sized (SME) companies but we don’t see that reflected on either the Board or the Council. We recognise and support the need for a streamlined Board of competencies but the CITB will continue to flounder until it is properly representative. For too long, major contractors have called the shots and although they have an important role to play, their role has been inflated – especially when you consider that it’s the small firms that carry out the bulk of the training in our industry.”

Berry concluded: “Other important reforms include the need for employers and their trade federations to break away from the “tit for tat” mind set. The CITB levy and grant system is about each employer making a proportionate financial contribution towards the overall skills needs of the construction industry – it is not about individual organisations trying to draw down every penny it has paid in levy for their own gain. For the levy and grant system to work effectively in addressing the construction skills crisis, and for the industry to work constructively with the CITB exec, we need to break away from this detrimental mind-set.”

Sarah Beale, who was recently appointed chief executive of the CITB has responded to the review stating that she agrees CITB needs significant reform and is working hard to make this happen. She explained: “The review being led by Paul Morell has indicated that the CITB should be retained but needs significant reform. As its new chief executive, I agree with this and have my foot down hard on the accelerator to make this happen. We still have to secure industry’s agreement to continue with the levy, but we are working hard to secure it this summer.

“If we achieve this, we will have the launch pad to really make a difference. But more importantly, construction is now talking more seriously about modernisation and I will ensure that the CITB is a key part of that conversation.

“This week at the Construction Leadership Council, with Mark Farmer’s vision of a modernised construction industry under debate, we will look at how to deliver it.

“I also shared our vision with the CLC for how a new CITB can work closely with our industry to help it to achieve its goals.

“The first part of this is behaving differently. We will be much more transparent and accountable, working with employers to agree the outcomes we are targeting and the yardsticks to judge our success.

“We will also be more responsive. To give you one example: for a much larger part of the funding we provide, we will work with industry to agree the outcomes and then commission bids to deliver them.

“We are also reforming what we do and how we do it. We will now have a much sharper focus under the three headings of careers, standards and qualifications, and training and development. We will only intervene where we are best placed to make a difference. Last month’s sale of our awarding body – Cskills Awards – was a demonstration of this, but there will be more changes to come.

“We will be more forward-looking and evidence-based in how we agree what needs to be done and how to go about it. For example, our report on offsite construction identified the skills and actions needed to realise its opportunities, while our migration research will give industry and Government the evidence base to address this complex issue.

“This isn’t the first time construction has discussed modernisation and I am not the CITB’s first leader to promise reform. But the prize for success and the risks from failure are now so great that we must act now.”

Read the full letter from Rt Hon Anne Milton MP, Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills, to James Wates, Chair of Construction Industry Training Board here.