The following is part of an open letter to Sarah Beale and the CITB executive team: I have been associated with CITB for 30 years until retirement so you will understand that I am passionate about Bircham Newton and CITB.
I want to respond to the announcement that CITB will relocate its offices to Peterborough and withdraw from direct training. The way that the CITB staff have been treated is absolutely inexcusable. Outsiders to the organisation have held the views that CITB is a job for life and a very comfortable existence. This is far from the case. My experience is one of a very professional workforce who work hard in an extremely stressful environment. It would be fair to say that CITB levels of work stress related sickness is one of the highest in the county. CITB has never effectively addressed this issue.
Whilst the changes that have been identified are significant, we must agree that any organisation needs to adapt and evolve because of the demands of its customers and stakeholders. I do however seriously question the methods and approach that you and your team are adopting to address the requirements from both industry and Government. You state that construction needs to modernise and CITB is no exception. Over recent years there has been a number of initiatives, so what have you and previous management teams been doing if all the programmes have failed so dismally that you have to rebrand it to “modernise” and make sweeping changes that will result in a traumatic aftershock to the industry, staff and local communities, yet fails to address key fundamental issues? The fact that the majority of your executive team have little or no construction experience is truly astonishing yet you spout rhetorical statements to try to justify your claims. Your team is responsible for contributing, promoting and supporting the bureaucratic systems that are in place that industry has criticised for years. What you are proposing will have little effect until the culture and the leadership of this great organisation changes or is replaced. The answer in previous years has been to “rebrand” or undertake initiatives at considerable unjustified cost, both in jobs and levy payers’ money to paper over the cracks.
In the mid-1990s a proposal to relocate the head office functions to Peterborough was instigated but resulted in a shameful backtrack. The truth centred around relocating a group of managers and taking on new staff at reduced pay grades. The essence of any great organisation is not about its location but it is contained within its business culture, services, honesty and the quality and skills of its employees.
The only people who can possibly benefit from a relocation plan will ultimately be the CITB senior managers who will continue to build their little empires and oversee the same archaic principles that have been the bane of industry and CITB staff life for years. They will continue to draw huge salaries that they could never in their wildest dreams ever achieve in the commercial world and then leave with a very generous severance package.
One would think that a major overhaul of any organisation such as relocation and disposal of major assets would be carefully considered and planned. I wonder why the changes you have outlined were not discussed as an agenda item at the July Board meeting. The minutes of the Board meeting are freely available, but they have been heavily censured with tracts for text blacked out so it resembles a top secret MI6 file. It looks like the planning has been well considered. CITB states it is committed to greater transparency of its operations, this appears to be a contradiction in terms. I have been unable to find out what the potential move cost would be, but from previous experience it will not be cheap. In the mid-1990s £13 million was allocated for such an endeavour. You say that disposal of the colleges is at the direct request of both industry and the government. It defies logic that when the industry is crying out for a skilled workforce, the powers that be call for a closure of the industry’s number one training provider. I would like to know how much of levy payers’ money has been invested in both CITB and the college infrastructure in the past five years, as all this investment will have been for nothing. And also what is the cost of any proposed relocation and restructure ? This should include a full cost analysis of transferring and outsourcing essential services, staff levels, redundancies and trainee relocation to other providers. I will not hold my breath for a reply as the final figure will be staggering and will further confirm the current fiscal irresponsibility.