Union warns industry over CITB closure plan

GV CITB Bircham Norflk.
GV CITB Bircham Norflk.
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Union leaders have warned the construction industry needs to “get its house in order”, over proposed reforms of the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB).

The warning follows the CITB’s announcement that it plans to leave its Bircham Newton headquarters as part of a major reform of its operations, placing hundreds of jobs at risk.

But officials from the union Unite say the industry needs to act now to address what it says is a deepening skills crisis in the sector.

Its assistant general secretary, Gail Cartmail, said: “Tens of thousands of young people are being placed in ‘dead end’ classroom-based construction courses and these courses totally dwarf the number of construction apprentices beginning their training.

“This is at the same time that the CITB plans to cease providing training directly and instead divest courses to other training providers.

“It is clear that the industry needs to get its house in order.”

The union says it wants industry chiefs to work with them to ensure apprentices get the training opportunities they need and vowed to “kick doors down” to ensure the number of available places increases.

Ms Cartmail added: “The ongoing uncertainty over the rights of EU citizens to remain in the UK is resulting in workers leaving the UK and is exacerbating the deepening construction skills crisis and threatening to seriously damage the industry.

“Those trade bodies need to set out what they intend to do to kick their addiction to cheap, foreign labour and horrific employment practices, not just ask how they can go on relying on EU labour after March 2019.”

The union’s intervention comes as the Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors warned of a shortage of workers with specific trade skills.

It also follows the publication of a recent Ofsted report that rated CITB as “outstanding” for the standard of its apprenticeship programmes.

The report, which followed an assessment visit in October, saidthe CITB performed “exceptionally well” in working with colleges to provide programmes that meet local, regional and national priorities. It added that the vast majority of apprentices rapidly gaining high quality practical skills.

Critics of the CITB plan to quit the Bircham site for a new headquarters in the Peterborough area say the findings vindicate their stance against the closure proposal.

But the board said it needs to work with the industry to develop “further modern methods” of construction training.