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Testing times for Wates at ConstructionSkills

19 February 2010

CIOB president-elect James Wates, who is replacing Sir Michael Latham as chair of CITB ConstructionSkills this April, takes the helm of the organisation amid testing times, Building reports.

With the levy-and-training body mired in deficit and one trade federation thinking of leaving ConstructionSkills, Wates faces difficult challenges if he is to turn the organisation around.

CSkills finished 2009 with a £10m deficit, with the consequence that its working capital fell below the minimum level of reserves required by the government.

Because the deficit resulted in a fall in the training funds available to the industry, a growing number of construction companies are unhappy about the discrepancy between the training levy they pay in and the training grant they receive in return.

At the same time, the 15 % drop in industry output over the last two years will continue to hit levy income which is based on firms’ turnover. Cskills' income is forecast at £174m for 2010 compared to £186m in 2009.

Adding to the body’s woes, about 3,500 apprentices are without training providers and in October CSkills predicted that just 36 % of its apprentices would find work in 2010.

The immediate impact of the deficit was redundancies, with 10 per cent of the organisation’s 1,412 staff made redundant in 2009. Building reported that a further 250 jobs would go within the organisation before the end of 2011.

In addition, CSkills announced a 15 % cut for all training except apprenticeships, with cuts backdated to August 2009. With the grant forecast to plunge further, to £115m in 2011 compared to £165 m in 2010, the outlook is bleak.

Trade federations are also unhappy at the different levels of grant that different sectors receive, with firms in the plastering and drylining sector paying in £12.7 m in 2008 but only getting back £8.2 m.

Consequently the Federation of Plasterers and Drywall Contractors wants to put forward a case to the government for its removal from the scheme. Instead, the FPDC is looking into joining SummitSkills, the skills council for the M&E and plumbing sectors.

Wates will hold his two-day a week post at Cskills alongside his role as chair of the UK Ocnstruction Council. But Building asks, with such aggrieved members, can Wates effect a turnaround?

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