We live in a time of great change for the construction industry and its skills requirements.
The infrastructure pipeline is expanding, housebuilders are responding to the need for a million new homes by 2020, employers are developing new ways to meet their workforce needs and government reforms such as the apprenticeship levy are transforming the skills landscape.
CITB plays a crucial role in driving and responding to change on many fronts, including funding. We are investing in skills and expect strong returns.
Our grants scheme has helped employers over many years, but it needs to change from being a vehicle that simply returns levy to employers to one that makes strategic investments in skills.
More to do
This year we have supported programmes that will have a major impact on the key issues facing construction, as well as smaller project grants to transform training for individual SMEs.
But we need to do more.
Our grants scheme must have a laser-like focus on helping employers to build a qualified workforce with the cross-industry skills that will benefit construction as a whole, now and in the future.
This includes looking for new avenues of supporting employers, who will be in the driving seat on apprenticeships, but also paying for the petrol.
At a time when further education will see great change, we must find new ways of ensuring that employers can access the right training provision, particularly for specialist skills.
This is a big agenda, and throughout the rest of this year we will be talking with our industry about our vision of how to deliver on it.
What is clear is that our funding will need to be more targeted, driven by robust evidence of where the needs are greatest, and underpinned by well-defined criteria.
For example, the programmes we support must always be led by in-scope employers or the federations that represent them.
Again, we expect return on our investment. So we will ensure the levy funds are invested in projects that have the potential to scale up, led by organisations that have the financial staying power to make a difference to our industry for years to come.
We also need to avoid financing programmes where public funding is already available. In some cases, this may mean tough choices.
It may mean resisting the emotional pull of certain projects that have aims to which we can all sign up, but fail to demonstrate both that they are meeting employers’ key needs and can make a visible difference over the longer term.
Our industry faces a massive skills challenge in the coming years, but we can give ourselves a fighting chance by making the right investments.
About the author
James Wates is the Chairman of CITB and has worked in the construction industry most of his life, starting on site as a schoolboy during holidays.
He joined Wates Construction as a management trainee, progressing through line management to running sites before taking on a general manager role in 1989. Since then he has progressed to Chairman of the main Group Board.
He was awarded the CBE in January 2012 for Services to Construction and the Charitable sector.