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COMMENT 17 COMMENT


Richard Beresford, chief executive at the National Federation of Builders


SMES ARE CENTRAL TO FUTURE CITB SUCCESS


Richard Beresford explains why SMEs must be at the centre of the CITB’s decisions if it is to succeed.


lthough the construction industry endorsed the CITB levy until 2021, the training body knows that expectations are high to deliver meaningful changes in both administrative and operational duties. Many of these will require cross-industry collaboration, while others will involve tackling existing barriers. And yet CITB is on course to fail to meet its ambitions unless it places SMEs at the heart of its decision-making and governance process.


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One change that already resonated positively within the industry is the move to an automated grant payment system. For members of the National Federation of Builders (NFB), who are mostly SMEs, the excessive red tape has often discouraged them from claiming any grants. This has not only impacted negatively on businesses, but it decreased the amount of potential training done through CITB and the likelihood of sharing knowledge with the organisation.


IF IT WISHES TO STAY RELEVANT, THE CITB WILL ALSO NEED TO ENSURE THAT LEADERSHIP REPRESENTS THE ENTIRE INDUSTRY


Responding to industry challenges requires strong leadership and the CITB has shown it is willing to take on the challenge. However, if it wishes to stay relevant, the CITB will also need to ensure that leadership is representative of the entire construction industry. For SMEs, the predominant rural employers who train two- thirds of construction apprentices, this means understanding their contribution and business model. The NFB believes that the best way for CITB to achieve this goal is ensuring that every part of its governance structure has SME representation. This includes the position of CITB chair.


SMEs are not just the industry’s predominant


employers and trainers, but a reliable indicator of future challenges. Regulatory changes in planning highlight this fact, since SMEs are the most likely to start a development with up-to-date planning rules. Two modern examples of this are increased


energy efficiency requirements on buildings and the installation of renewable energy sources. Both pose very different challenges for the CITB.


SMEs are not only delivering a skilled


workforce fit for modern regulation, they are also delivering bespoke projects involving technol- ogy that has not yet hit mainstream consumption and design. Mechanical ventilation and heat recovery is a chief example of where client specification advances industry knowledge of a system or product. In many of these cases, SMEs train their own staff to become experts without the support of the CITB, or they work with manufacturers to deliver a more skilled workforce. With modern methods of construction being more than the offsite manufacturing of homes, the CITB needs to look more deeply into whether it can better align itself with what industry is delivering and able to deliver. CITB will certainly be able to shape the direction that industry travels but it will find many more avenues for evolution if it recognises the intrinsic value of integrating industry into its decision making process. With 60 per cent of employment in the UK private sector provided by SMEs, with a fifth of those in construction, there are more than three million reasons to make sure SMEs are the focus of the skills challenge solution. With Government also recognising the value of SMEs through the ‘Housing White Paper’ – where diversification of housing supply is predicated on both modern methods of construction and increasing the productivity of SME housebuilders – the CITB is in a unique position where it has clear direction from policy, industry and politicians on the value of SMEs to British industry. The future governance of CITB will not only


reflect its understanding of the industry, but its very ambition in solving the construction skills crisis. SMEs deliver today’s jobs and tomorrow’s opportunities – they are the backbone of our local and national economy. We therefore implore the CITB to see the task of board representation as a test of their ambition and embrace those parts of industry who despite a difficult business environment, continue to make construction an exciting, varied and lasting career choice.


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