The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) has revealed a new strategy and is planning to shut its offices and college in Norfolk by the end of 2019.
The Vision 2020: The Future CITB strategy will put an end to direct training via the National Construction College and will oversee training by external private sector providers.
In a bid to become a simpler, streamlined organisation, there will also be ceased services such as administering the card schemes, and there are plans to shut offices, with the proposals outlined set to be phased in over the next three years.
Amid these plans, the training body could find it has to shed “hundreds of jobs” according to union officials, as the offices in Bircham Newton, Norfolk, employ about 600 staff out of 1,400 nationwide.
“We are doing everything we can to minimise the impact on people here” said Sarah Beale, CITB chief executive, who is confident in the commitment to becoming a more representative, accountable and reliable ‘levy in, skills out’ organisation.
The college currently offers around 140 courses from seven centres across the UK, training thousands of construction workers over 50 years and providing plenty of space for apprentices from all over the country to learn their trade.
“Thousands of construction workers owe their careers and their livelihoods to the unique training they have received at Bircham Newton,” said Jerry Swain, Unite national officer for construction.
A government review found that there was heavy criticism of how the CITB currently operates, however the construction employers and trade associations involved did vote for the industry levy to continue.
The remote site has been difficult to modernise, and the CITB at Bircham Newton has had to battle for survival on a number of occasions over the past 25 years, which is why the headquarters will now be in Peterborough.
The apprenticeship levy introduction also played a part in the pressures placed on the CITB, causing them to decide to cut costs and become more efficient, as they suddenly had large building firms paying two levies (one to CITB and one to the government.)
However much changes needed to be made, it has raised concerns that the reform comes at a time where the construction industry is already facing a skills crisis.
Sir Henry Bellingham, MP for north-west Norfolk, said: “It really does seem completely perverse that at a time when the industry needs more specialist skills and more innovative re-skilling, the CITB are thinking of completely pulling out of Bircham.”
“The Government must step in to ensure that these vitally important tutors and training facilities are not lost and that training is not downgraded,” said Jerry Swain.
The CITB said that in the future it would use levy money to “ensure a sustainable training and development market” and are confident that they now have a clearly defined path for a bright, modern and engaged CITB.
“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,” said Sarah Beale.