My feeling towards the ‘Construction Industry Training Board’ (CITB) is no secret. Anyone who has seen any of our blogs highlighting the miserable CITB service and return on investment spooned up to PCA members in recent years, will know that we think they are a failed and outdated institution and should be disbanded.
CITB training grants that just make you laugh!
Recent disappointments have included the huge reductions in funding available for the short duration training grants. £30 for attending a three day course that has been commended for its relevance and content…that can’t be right! If you knew the amount of work that the PCA has to do to maintain its status as an Approved Training Organisation (ATO) so these miserable grants can be paid, you would laugh!
CITB Apprenticeship support like Pulling Teeth
Another low point was the misery surrounding the creation of our Trailblazer apprenticeship. Though our programme is now approved, the rules say that, ‘despite our ability to deliver it through the PCA, we can’t unless we team up with a college’.
Like other apprentice scheme providers, we have been unable to find a further education college that will take us on. Unless this happens, the apprentice standard that has been accredited by the Department for Education is undeliverable. Without the funding streams and access to cash held in apprentice levy accounts, we may as well have not bothered!
One Good Bit of News
The one good bit of news relates to our Specialist Apprentice Programme (SAP). We had thought that funding for new starts may stop in 2020, however we have learned that this is set to remain in place for several more years to come. This is great news for our existing waterproofing and preservation apprentice programmes
Making noise about CITB seems to be doing something
Anyway, the result of the protestations made by PCA illustrating the poor return on investment to members of the Association, led to CITB commissioning a report using PCA members as an example.
This report was published by us in a ‘Hodgson View: bad-tempered blog’ a month or so ago. In the report, CITB conclude that their service has been terrible and that grant pay-outs have reduced by two thirds in three years! Well… I think every PCA member knew that… then again so does every small specialist construction firm that attempts in vain to get some value from CITB.
It can be sooo frustrating just chatting to CITB
Now talking to CITB staff can be frustrating. Good people caught up in a ‘Kafkaesque’ system that rewards conformity and dogged reliance following a strict process.
Rather than valuing creativity and independence, its top-down model of management results in protracted periods or misery punctuated by short periods of fury for anyone trying to understand and move around within the CITB system! In an organisation where constant restructuring and redundancies are normal, it may not always be wise to question the boss or point out the folly of processes you have been asked to deliver.
A breath of fresh air – the surprise meeting
So it was with some surprise that we received an email from CITB asking us to attend a meeting with one of the non-executive directors of the organisation. On Thursday last week I met with Nick James (Executive Direct at CITB) and Kevin McLoughlin (Non-Executive Board member at CITB) and what a breath of fresh air Kevin was.
Kevin just “got it!”. Not only that but his pragmatic and straight forward examination of the issues raised with him seemed to have an influence on Nick. They agreed that systems and processes within CITB are dysfunctional. They discussed and examined the perversities designed into their process and admitted that CITB were awash with unspent cash that is the result of changes they did not really understand when they were initiated.
Where do we go from here with CITB?
So what next? Well they made some promises. They gave some assurances. They have told me things will get better…however, I will reserve judgment for now.
My impression of Kevin was of a professional who cares deeply about CITB and what it does. He has listened and I get the feeling he will speak to the Board about the things he has learned. I also walk away feeling he will try to make things better for specialists who have no option but to pay the CITB Tax.
Lingering doubt remains and I am yet to be convinced that CITB has not become so institutional where change is constant, but improvement is slow, rare and undervalued!
Ps. There is a ‘CITB Cash Gravy Train’ if you qualify
CITB have pots of cash that they want to give away. The money available for companies who want to train and upskill their workforce is considerable. The Skills and Training fund is a pot of cash whose custodians have been tasked with its disposal. There are rules, but these are easy to meet, and there is a process, but it’s simple and relatively quick.
My advice to anyone who is eligible for CITB funding is to make a plan and make an application. You are almost certain to get what you ask for.
If you are a member of PCA and a levy payer and want any – or all – of your workforce to attend an eligible training course, we can help point you in the right direction – almost all PCA courses are currently approved by CITB.