End of CITB's training facilities will mean a "skills black hole", says construction union

The UK’s construction union has said that a decision by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) to end all direct training services by 2020 will “create a skills black hole”.

It comes after an announcement last November by the training body unveiled plans for a new “streamlined” service which would see CITB become more “agile and forward-thinking”. In its strategy for the next three years entitled ‘Vision 2020: The Future CITB‘, the paper warned about possible reductions to its staff and relocation of its head office from Bircham Newton in Norfolk to Peterborough.

This move would see the body unable to provide training directly and instead look to other training providers to plug the gap. The paper was released after the training body conducted one of its largest ever industry consultation exercises.

According to the Unite union, the CITB’s chief executive Sarah Beale, wrote to staff in a blog post last week to spell out the ramifications for the industry following their decision. She is claimed to have 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.”

Unite say that much of the specialist construction training undertaken by the CITB is unique and the organisations headquarters in Norfolk allows somewhat complex training involving heavy equipment, tunnelling, cranes and scaffolding to be incorporated.

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.”

The latest development comes after it was revealed that a taskforce had been set up to discuss the possibilities of ensuring the CITB’s head office avoided relocation. Invested parties like the Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Norfolk County Council had met up to attempt to provide clarity over the future of the training body.

Speaking after the meeting, Beale spoke of her delight that such a taskforce has been established and said, “there were lots of issues on the table and we are committed to working together with taskforce partners to achieve effective solutions for West Norfolk and the people who live and work there”.

Unite has now 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.

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