Chris Blythe: Training levy is our badge of shame
The CITB has just announced an additional £93m of additional training grants for the industry. It’s very generous of them to return more of the industry’s money back to the industry.
The notion of an Industry Training Board (ITB) with the powers of a levy is a throwback to the past and is testament to the industry’s failure to train its people properly. I question whether it is still in the interests of the industry to carry this badge of failure and shame.
Does the industry really need a nanny to encourage training? Because that is what it looks like. Other industries don’t need an ITB and yet are doing well. So is it really necessary for the construction industry to have one?
There are those who argue that without the CITB we would find ourselves with skill shortages. Well according to the latest surveys from ConstructionSkills (CITB’s other face) we do have skills shortages. So what problem has been solved with the CITB?
The focus on traditional skills has stunted the development of the new skills needed in today’s construction industry because the traditional skills lobby controls the way the money is dispersed. Of course, having a grant-giving body means that people will do what they feel they have to do to get grants rather than what they need to do to have a successful business. It is the welfare mentality.
In my view, market forces would have had us much further along the reskilling path because there would be no constraints in what companies could do, and no creaming off of cash to fund an unwieldy bureaucracy.
Leave the money with the employers and let them do what’s best for them. Those that want a long-term future will have to invest in their people and invest what’s necessary. Those that don’t will go out of business.
Other industries in the UK have moved on — it was a case of change or die for them. They changed. Other construction industries are moving on too. Our response to seeing the Chinese build a skyscraper in 10 weeks is to joke that it will fall down in half the time rather than say what do we need to change to achieve that.
Construction productivity has gently declined over the years compared to other industries. The productivity gap is now wider than it has ever been. So it is clear that what we have is not working.
A good place to start is to get rid of our badge of shame, the training levy. It is holding us back and will continue to do so as long as we have it.