Feared Bircham Newton CITB cuts attacked

HRH. The Duke of York visits CITB Bircham Newton ANL-150622-142256009
HRH. The Duke of York visits CITB Bircham Newton ANL-150622-142256009

The prospect of deep cuts at the Bircham Newton-based Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) has alarmed trade union Unite.

The union, which has 50,000 members in the building sector, said the mooted 30 per cent cut in CITB staff raise serious questions about the future of training in the construction industry, already plagued with skills’ shortages.

Unite fears that the highly-regarded training provided by the CITB will be outsourced to profit-hungry private providers which would have an adverse impact on training.

This would leave the CITB as a hollowed out commissioning organisation that just distributed funds to providers – but did no training itself. This would strongly mitigate against the ethos and intentions of the 1964 Industrial Training Act that gave the then minister of labour statutory powers to create industrial training boards.

The CITB has announced a major restructure which will see its workforce fall from 1,400 to 950 by 2018, though it is not yet clear how many will go at its Bircham Newton headquarters, where 680 people are employed.

This has prompted the Labour leader of the county council George Nobbs to write to the minister for skills Nick Boles calling for support.

Unite said there is no logic in cutting CITB training when the UK construction industry is expected to grow by 2.5 per cent each year until 2020, creating an extra 232,000 jobs over the normal turnover of labour expected over that period.

There were about 12,000 vacancies in construction in 2015 that were hard to fill due to the lack of skilled applicants.

CITB staff includes such key personal as training advisors, awarding body advisors, tutors and assessors.

In a letter to the CITB, Unite national officer for construction John Allott said: “The present planned route of travel looks more and more like an organisation which is going to collect and distribute funds. This business model will not be sustainable long term and will only lead to the death of CITB in the longer term.

“Everything is inextricably linked, with good reason, to ensure a cohesive skills infrastructure is there to meet the demands of the industry and its allied sectors.”

Mr Allott called on the CITB board to reconsider these cuts: “A training board that does not deliver training is like a pub that does not serve beer – in the end, it closes”, he added.

Unite regional coordinating officer for the eastern region Mark Robinson said: “The CITB bosses have already started the cutbacks.

“Currently the board is creating a universal ‘advisor role’ which will combine the work currently done by three different types of advisors.

“A total of 112 people are affected with only 66 roles going forward.”