CITB having ‘little or no impact’ in providing training to SMEs

roofing-training-bircham-616An independent survey into the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) has criticised the body for having “little or no impact on its primary mission of encouraging the provision of training” among the sector’s SMEs.

Research released today by Hudson Contract found that only 9 per cent of SMEs receive funding for training employees from CITB, and of that 9 per cent, only half receive the full cost of training.

The survey also found that 60 per cent of levy payers provide training without CITB grant funding.

Hudson said that, despite its collecting almost £200 million in levy from the sector, the research shows the CITB is “increasingly irrelevant” to an industry striving for growth

It added that SMEs pay twice as much levy as larger firms in the sector yet have less power to influence the CITB.

Ian Anfield, managing director of Hudson Contract, said: “Despite spending millions on websites, roadshows and PR, the CITB’s influence on training provision is negligible. In reality, the CITB is a hapless bystander while SMEs get on with the day job. More and more stakeholders are questioning whether there is a need for a levy and grant system at all.  This needs an answer.”

Hudson, with support from the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE), commissioned YouGov to study the views of SMEs in the sector.

Further results from the research revealed:

  • Only 35 per cent knew that the CITB collects the levy and distributes grants. Even among levy payers specifically, only two thirds were aware of this.
  • More than half of the firms interviewed have either no knowledge or no opinion of the CITB levy’s effectiveness in ensuring training and skills development.
  • 71 per cent say the possibility of a CITB grant to cover training does not influence decisions to send workers on a training course; and a mere 2 per cent say a CITB grant is the main reason for training.
  • 38 per cent of firms would continue training even without the possibility of a levy grant.

Hudson said the CITB’s own accounts show that large businesses receive a 92 per cent return on their levy payment, whereas small and micro sized businesses receive 61 per cent and 52 per cent respectively. Of those who say that they find it difficult to claim back grants, 55 per cent say that the reason for this is that they do not have an administrator to support them, while 50 per cent say the process is too complicated.

Anecdotally, many of Hudson’s SME clients have identified the bureaucracy associated with the CITB grants as a barrier to accessing grants, whereas large firms are able to employ administrators whose sole role is to wade through the red tape.

Anfield added: “Training is absolutely vital if the construction industry is to thrive and deliver our country’s much needed infrastructure and house building programmes. As the backbone of the industry, SMEs play a crucial role in this. Yet not only is the CITB offering scant support to SMEs, it is actually putting obstacles in their way by collecting a levy and passing most of it on to major contractors. Those with the narrowest shoulders bear the toughest burden. That is bad for business and bad for the industry.”

Steve Radley, director of policy at CITB, told Scottish Construction Now: “The Hudson’s survey highlights some important issues, which we have already acknowledged and are addressing.

“We are working closely with our industry to design a new grants scheme that helps construction meet its skill needs and to ensure smaller firms get the support that they need.

“As a first step, we’ve already worked with employers to design and launch a new Skills and Training Fund to give project funding of up to £5,000 for employers with less than 50 employees.

“Over the last 12 months, 442 small, medium and micro-sized firms have collectively received £1.9m in training funding, and their feedback has been very positive.

“We know that we need to make our support much more accessible to firms of all sizes. At the same time, the Hudson’s survey, which includes only a small number of actual levy payers, doesn’t tells us the whole story.

“Our own independent research, based on a much larger sampler of levy registered employers shows that 72 per cent of employers consider the CITB Levy is important for the industry.

“In addition 63 per cent of employers (and 71 per cent of small firms) think that if CITB did not exist, training levels would drop and fewer apprentices would be recruited.”

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