Construction ‘facing skills black hole’ as CITB confirms training role exit

News that the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) has confirmed it will end all directing training by 2020, will create a skills black hole and strip the industry of the capability to undertake specialist training, according to the UK’s construction union.

In November, the CITB announced a major restructure during which it would cease to provide training directly and instead seeking other training providers to undertake this work.

Then in a blog post to staff last week CITB chief executive, Sarah Beale, went further and spelled out the ramifications for the industry following the CITB’s decision.

She said: “The plans are to exit all direct training by the beginning of 2020, with the intention to sell these activities ideally as a going concern, where ever feasible… If we cannot sell these activities, then there is a risk that we will need to discontinue and close some business areas.”

The Unite union has argued that much of the specialist construction training undertaken by the CITB is unique and the organisations main facility at Bircham Newton (a former airfield in Norfolk) means that complex training involving heavy equipment, tunnelling, cranes and scaffolding can be easily accommodated.

The sale of the training activities is complex as experts point out that the way the CITB’s training is currently organised means that loss making courses are subsidised by profit making activities, such cross fertilisation is unlikely to interest a private provider, it added.

Unite national officer for construction, Jerry Swain, said: “This reveals that the CITB has no commitment to ensuring that there are the necessary training facilities available to meet the UK’s construction training needs.

“Much of the direct training provided by the CITB is absolutely unique, if no one picks this up there is a real danger that the UK will not have the necessary skilled workforce to maintain a buoyant construction industry.

“The CITB is in danger of becoming a self-serving, self-satisfying organisation that fails to deliver for the needs of the industry it is meant to serve.”

Unite said it will write to the relevant government ministers and their shadow counterparts raising its concerns about the future of construction training given the CITB’s decision.

As well as no longer providing direct training of construction workers, the CITB is also planning on selling its offices in Bircham Newton and London and moving to new premises in the Peterborough area and outsourcing all its back office operations including: IT, human resources and estates.

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