The country’s housebuilders have returned a resoundingly negative response in the vote on whether the industry has confidence in the CITB, the body which collects a Levy on construction companies to help fund skills and training courses for their employees.
While many expect that CITB will secure support in the vote – formally held on the CITB’s proposals for its Levy for the next three years – from enough other federations in the wider construction sector to continue its work, the message from home builders is very clearly a vote of ‘no confidence’ in the current operation. In terms of Levy paid, 89% voted against CITB continuing as the lead body for construction training.
The result of HBF members’ engagement with the statutory ‘consensus process’ comes ahead of the industry launching its own ‘Home Building Skills Pledge’ at HBF’s Housing Market Intelligence Conference on Thursday. The Skills Pledge commits companies to working together and with subcontractors to recruit and train more people to the highest industry-agreed standards. All of HBF’s larger members have signed up alongside an increasing number of medium and small members – meaning companies responsible for well over half the homes built in England are already committed.
The Skills Pledge is the latest initiative to come out of the Home Building Skills Partnership, a pan industry body set up to tackle the industry’s skills shortage. The Partnership, set up 18 months ago is already starting to deliver on its objective of attracting and training the people the industry needs to deliver more, high quality homes in the future.
Frustration with CITB has been increasing within the house building industry for some years. Critics have questioned its effectiveness and ability to deliver the training requirements of an industry with different skills needs to the wider construction sector. With house builders facing a major skills challenge to meet the capacity requirements to achieve the Government’s ambitious housing delivery plans, these frustrations and little sign of the change from CITB home builders require has produced the result confirmed today. In addition, the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy means that many home builders are effectively being taxed twice for skills provision.
Of particular frustration has been the complex, overly bureaucratic nature of the process builders have to go through to access training funding. HBF’s larger members report having to employ specific members of staff in order to claw back just a fraction of the money paid through their own levy payments, from CITB for training, something many of HBF’s hundreds of smaller members don’t have the capacity to do, meaning they miss out. These frustrations have been compounded by CITB’s current proposals to focus more narrowly on “core construction” skills, meaning that while home builders will pay levy in respect of their whole workforce they risk being able to obtain support for a smaller proportion of their workers than they do now.
With the wider construction industry likely voting for CITB to continue, home builders are now keen to work with CITB to drive the truly radical change needed within the organisation to address the concerns the vote has exposed, and help to enable house builders to access the training requirements they need to tackle the country’s housing crisis.
Speaking in advance of this week’s Home Building Skills Pledge’s official launch, Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation said, “The vote demonstrates the frustrations house builders feel with CITB and the training regime currently in place. The industry simply does not feel that CITB is providing the support and framework it needs to train its staff despite the huge amounts being paid in levy by home builders.
“House builders desperately need a training body focussed on its requirements with which it can work closely to develop training regimes that are easily accessible to companies large and small. We hope this will be the wake-up call CITB needs to drive root and branch change through its entire organisation.
“If we are to develop the capacity to build the high quality homes the country desperately needs, the industry must recruit and train more people. The launch of our Home Building Skills Pledge is a clear demonstration of the industry’s commitment to investing in its training needs now and in the future.