15 Jul 2015

The CITB levy, the main source of funding for training in the construction industry for more than half a century, could be scrapped amid government plans for a national apprenticeship levy.

The plan, announced in chancellor George Osborne’s Budget last week, is designed to help the UK reach a target of three million apprentices by 2020.

The construction industry is one of the few sectors whose training board has the power to collect annual levy payments from companies to invest in training and apprenticeships, along with the engineering and film industries.

In construction, contractors are required to pay 0.5 per cent of their total PAYE spend for the year, plus 1.5 per cent of all labour-only subcontractor payments, to the CITB.

However, the Confederation of British Industry told Construction News that construction firms had reported finding “uneven benefits in the system” and pointed to “difficulties navigating the CITB grant system”.

The current system has also led to reports of confusion over how much companies that do not count construction as their main business, such as developers, have to pay into the levy.

The introduction of a national levy has now raised questions over the future of the CITB system, with the government saying the new levy would be “simpler and clearer for businesses that operate across multiple sectors”.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills told Construction News that the national levy “would remove the challenges faced by the current industry training boards in ‘policing’ the boundaries of the sectors they serve”.

BIS added that it will assess the new levy’s “interaction with existing levy regimes ahead of the spending review in October”.

The proposal leant heavily on a recent report by public policy think tank the Social Market Foundation which championed a new national apprenticeship levy as the solution to the skills crisis.

The report was referenced in the Treasury’s Fixing the foundations productivity plan, published in the wake of the Budget.

It proposed that “individual government contracts with ‘training providers’ to find and deliver ‘completed’ apprentices would cease”, with all apprenticeships instead funded through the national fund.

Speaking to Construction News this week, the report’s author Alison Wolf said that “a single national fund” was the most efficient way to secure the “high level training” the UK economy required.

Prof Wolf said: “Lots of separate funds means more bureaucracy and more admin costs.”

The King’s College academic added: “[Lots of smaller funds] make it harder to adjust to changes in the labour market and sectors, or to spread risk and ups and downs in demand.”

In his Budget speech, Mr Osborne said: “There are too many large companies who leave the training to others and take a free ride on the system. So we are going to take a radical and, frankly, long overdue approach.”

However, the announcement left many contractors and industry figures confused about how it would work.

According to one industry source, it was initially felt that the CITB levy would render the construction industry exempt from being affected by the new national levy, but it now seems that this will not be the case.

The CITB levy makes up more than 60 per cent of the organisation’s income. It is feared that removing the source of funds could have a major impact on the way the body operates in the future.

CITB director of policy Steve Radley said its work extended “beyond apprenticeships” and called on government to show how the new system would affect other work carried out by training boards.

“There would be question marks over how much a national apprenticeship levy would provide in practice,” he told Construction News.

“Would you be setting up a system where companies would be covered by an economy wide levy for apprenticeships and then on top of that [be] covered by a training board for the rest of the training they did?

“Do you want a one-size-fits-all approach for apprenticeship training across the economy?”

Mr Radley confirmed that the CITB was planning to hold talks with government to discuss the new levy.

13 Jul 2015

The skills crisis in construction is intensifying as 73% of contractors said they are struggling to fill roles for “higher skilled” staff.

A major survey by the CBI and education specialist Pearson said that Government plans to boost apprenticeships “will not deliver the high-quality, business-relevant training needed”.

Katja Hall, CBI Deputy Director-General, said: “The Government has set out its stall to create a high-skilled economy, but firms are facing a skills emergency now, threatening to starve economic growth.

“Worryingly, it’s those high-growth, high-value sectors with the most potential which are the ones under most pressure. That includes construction.”

The Government announced plans for a levy on all major employers in the Budget.

Construction already has its own training-levy system run via the CITB.

Hall said: “The new levy announced in the budget may guarantee funding for more apprenticeships, but it’s unlikely to equate to higher quality or deliver the skills that industry needs.

“Levies on training already exist in the construction sector where two-thirds of employers are already reporting skills shortages.

“Employers have a critical role in upskilling the workforce, but part of the deal must be for real business control of apprenticeships to meet their needs on the ground.”

The survey also highlighted continuing fears among employers about the standard of teaching in schools.

Over a third of firms report some concerns with school leavers’ literacy/use of English (37%), basic numeracy (37%) and nearly half on communication skills (49%).

Hall said: “Employers consider attitudes and aptitudes more important than any specific qualification or skill, other than practical literacy and numeracy.

“They also want to see young people gaining a greater understanding of the world outside the school gates, by inspiring pupils about career opportunities from a much earlier age and by putting work experience back on the agenda for all young people.”

06 Jul 2015

‘Scrap GCSEs and focus on work experience,’ says head of CBI

The head of the CBI has said that GCSEs should be scrapped in favour of work experience and a lesser emphasis on results at 16

GCSEs may be crowding out other experiences that could benefit pupils Photo: PA

GCSEs should be scrapped because schools are placing too much emphasis on grades rather than work experience, the director general of the CBI has said.

John Cridland, director general of the CBI, whose members employ nearly 7 million people in the UK, also said children as young as 14 should be taking up work experience because they are maturing faster.

His comments follow suggestions from other business leaders that youngsters should take up a job at JD Sports to make their CVs stand out from others with equally good grades at school.

Speaking ahead of the Festival of Education at Wellington College on Friday, Mr Cridland said: “The government has focused on academic rigour, which is necessary but not sufficient. Employers like academic rigour but they look for character as well.

“Those aspects – the orphanage in Malawi or Fund raising for charity – are just as important as getting the right qualifications.

He went on to say GCSEs should be scrapped to move away from too much emphasis on grades.

Mr John Cridland said: “We should retire GCSEs. I think we should set a date when we don’t need them anymore. The relentless focus on GCSEs crowds out [other experiences]. I went to a school recently where they haven’t done a concert that year because they didn’t think kids could cope with that while doing their GCSEs.

“We need to have young people ready for the world of work. GCSEs have timed out because they create this obsession at 16 when we should be seamlessly taking people to education from 14 to 16.

“We should have much better careers education at 13 and 14 – some academic and some vocational but all multidisciplinary for young people between 14 and 18 with a high quality exam at 18. The GCSE gets in the way of that.”

He also said work experience was really vital for pupils as young as 14 years of age.

Mr Cridland added: “Work experience is fading in many schools but I think young people need that work experience and they need it earlier. They should be doing it at 14. I think we should be giving people opportunities to taste and test their experiences before they finalise their career choice.

Responding to criticism that 14 might be too young for a student to take up work experience, Mr John Cridland said: “Puberty is kicking in earlier, students are growing up earlier and they get street wise earlier.”

His remarks followed suggestions students should take up a Saturday job at a retailer like J D Sports instead of pursuing a gap year, to help make their experience stand out on their CVs.

06 Jul 2015

35 workers killed in construction last year

Construction death rates fell sharply in 2014/2015 with 35 fatalities recorded by the HSE from 44 the year before.

Despite strongly recovering workloads the latest figures show fatalities are 22% down on the average of 45 over the last five years.

Fatality rates among construction workers improved from 1.62 deaths per 100,000 workers, compared to 1.98 last year and a five-year average of 2.07.

Within the overall construction-related figures 24 employees were killed and 11 self-employed workers. Four members of the public died as a result of construction activity, which are not included in the industry records.

The HSE has also released the latest available figures on deaths from Mesothelioma -– a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.

These show that 2,538 people in Great Britain died in 2013 compared to 2,548 in 2012 and 2,291 in 2011.

The statistics again confirm the UK to be one of the safest places to work in Europe, having one of the lowest rates of fatal injuries to workers in leading industrial nations.

Judith Hackitt, the HSE Chair, said: “Every fatality is a tragic event and our commitment to preventing loss of life in the workplace remains unaltered.  All workplace fatalities drive HSE to develop even more effective interventions to reduce death, injury and ill health.

06 Jul 2015

Blackwell wins £18m civils job at Boots scheme

Boots has selected C A Blackwell to deliver extensive enabling and infrastructure works for the redevelopment of its headquarters site at Beeston in Nottinghamshire.

The 279-acre Boots site, which has been home to high street pharmacy and beauty retailer since it was bought by Jesse Boot in 1927, was awarded Enterprise Zone status in 2011.

Boots aims to redevelop part of the site with 82,000sq m of commercial space and 675 new homes as part of a £500m redevelopment on the area.

This will include the creation of a new highway and bridge across the Beeston Canal to link to the A52.

As part of the first phase, Blackwell will carry out remediation works to ready the site for development and marketing. Initial works are expected to start later this year.

Ken Murphy, Executive Vice President of Walgreens Boots Alliance and President of Global Brands, said: “This contract award is an important step on the development on our site as part of the Nottingham Enterprise Zone.

“Our long term ambition is for the site to be an integral part in the future development, not just of Nottingham, but of the UK, as a leader in health and beauty innovation and excellence.”