CITB leave Bircham Newton

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The Construction Industry Training Board is leaving its historic home in remote Bircham Newton, quitting training delivery and outsourcing back office functions.

CITB chief executive Sarah Beale said the restructuring of the organisation would create “the strategic, forward-looking and agile skills body that the industry is seeking”. In effect, CITB will exist simply to collect and redistribute levy money, as a commisionner, and to accredit courses.

Workers’ union representative Mark Robinson said the proposals would “slash, trash and privatise the CITB”.

Plans for reforming the Construction Industry Training Board are contained in the document Vision 2020: The Future CITB. Its publication follows the government’s industry training boards (ITB) review and the triennial consensus process. While construction voted in favour of continuing the industry levy, it also revealed widespread dissatisfaction with the performance of the CITB and called for significant reform.

Vision 2020: The Future CITB is a three-year plan to slim down the organisation, turning it into ‘a commissioner of outcomes’. CITB will no longer deliver training itself except where it is unavailable on the market, or not good enough. The National Construction College at Bircham Newton in rural Norfolk faces sale or closure.

CITB will also no longer administer the card schemes, including the Construction Skills Certification Scheme and the Construction Plant Competency Scheme. These operations will now be privatised.

The proposed plan includes a move for the organisation’s head office from Bircham Newton, with Peterborough earmarked as the likely new base. In addition, there will be small co-located offices in London, Scotland and Wales. Around two-thirds of the workforce will remain ‘mobile’, as now.

The plans include the outsourcing of internal corporate support functions and customer operations; the proposal is to outsource these by the end of 2018. Internal corporate support functions to be outsourced are: finance, procurement and contract management, legal, human resources, business improvement, marketing and estates & facilities management. Customer operations, card schemes and apprenticeship processing will also be farmed out.

CITB chief executive Sarah Beale said: “Construction needs to modernise and CITB is no exception. We accept the challenges laid down by industry and government and we will deliver a future-fit training body by adapting and updating our business model.

“Some really tough decisions could be made under these proposals but I’m confident in our commitment to becoming a more representative, accountable and reliable ‘levy in, skills out’ organisation. We now have a clearly defined path, and we see a bright future for a modern, engaged CITB.”

She added: “I understand this strategy will bring about big changes to employees at CITB and we will be supporting our colleagues as much as possible throughout this process. These are tough calls to make, but needed if we are to meet the future demands and make the greatest impact to construction.  We have worked hard to develop robust, well thought-out plans which meet our industry’s needs whilst building a solid foundation for CITB’s future. The proposals outlined today will be phased in over the next three years, and with our customers always in mind it’s business as usual.”

CITB currently has approximately 1,300 staff. Unions say that hundreds of these jobs are now at risk.

Unite national officer for construction Jerry Swain said: “These plans are a hammer blow for the construction industry and for the workers at the CITB. Thousands of construction workers owe their careers and their livelihoods to the unique training they have received at Bircham Newton. There are grave doubts if any private provider could or would provide the same level of training at the same cost, which is currently provided at this unique facility. It appears that the ‘reforms’ being proposed by the CITB are all about increasing profits for individuals and companies and not what is in the best interests of the construction industry.”

Unite regional co-ordinating officer Mark Robinson said: “These proposals essentially would slash, trash and privatise the CITB. The likelihood of finding a training provider willing and capable to take on the National Construction College function of the Bircham Newton site and other NCC sites across the country is difficult to ascertain and puts hundreds of jobs at serious risk.

“Unite believes it is totally unnecessary to go to this level of change. For the CITB not to provide their own training on behalf of industry leaves the market wide open for less capable and reputable organisations to drive down the quality and standards that the industry expects.

“Unite will be seeking the views of its members to see what action can be taken to defend the hundreds of jobs not only in West Norfolk but throughout the country.”

With thanks to ‘The Construction Index’

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