CITB sets out ‘radical’ recovery plan, including cut in levy bills

Sarah Beale

THE Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) has announced its plan to help employers recover from the Covid-19 crisis, which includes a major reduction in levy bills, backed by Scottish Government and industry.

The Skills Stability Plan 2020-21 is designed to protect apprenticeships and provide direct funding to employers to adopt new ways of working.

Employers will continue to have a payment ‘holiday’ on the levy until September and then up to a full year to pay the 2020/21 levy. CITB will also propose a 50% discount on the 2021/22 levy rate, meaning employers will pay 18 months’ levy out of 24, making an overall saving of 25% across two years.

These changes will see CITB’s forecast levy income drop by £166 million across two financial years. CITB is also cutting costs and using its reserves to support employers’ skills needs.

CITB added that it will work with industry partners to support workers who have lost their jobs or seen their apprenticeships disrupted, matching them with a new employer, including through exploring a talent retention scheme. This will build on the support already provided to help apprentices complete their programmes through up-front grant payments to current year 2 and 3 apprentices, training materials being made available online and support from apprenticeship officers to allow learning to continue remotely.

The plan has also prioritised direct funding for employers through the Skills and Training Funds, with £8 million earmarked for small and micro businesses, £3.5 million for medium-sized businesses, and a £3 million leadership and management fund for large firms.  

CITB Chief Executive Sarah Beale said, “This represents a radical plan of action that balances the need for a reduction in the levy at this time, alongside vital investment in the skills needed by employers now and in the future. It is the result of hundreds of conversations with employers across the length and breadth of Britain and I’m confident it meets the sector’s immediate needs. We are committed to making the levy work hard to protect apprenticeships and support hard-pressed employers as they equip themselves for the challenges and opportunities ahead.”

CITB will now seek the views of industry employers and federations about the development of a new strategic plan, covering 2021-23, with the plan expected to be published in September. 

Sarah Beale added, “We have spoken to employers and federations and most have suggested that they want us to focus full-time on helping the industry meet the challenges posed by Covid. We have confirmed  with the Department for Education that we will not run the usual Consensus process and instead we will speak to employers and industry groups to seek their views on our plans for next year.  We will continue to be responsive and collaborative, working closely with the sector and Government to return the industry to growth. We will listen to industry and respond to its priorities and give every employer the confidence that we wish to understand and learn from their concerns and ambitions.” 

Maureen Douglas, director at Forster Group, the Scottish Roofing & Solar Contractor and CITB trustee, commented, “A reduction in levy income, combined with the need to maintain levels of industry training, has required CITB to make some tough choices. The Skills Stability Plan rightly sees supporting apprentices as the top priority as we can’t afford to lose those already in training, nor can we shut the door on those wanting to join. The plan will help industry, in particular SMEs, to continue to train where possible under difficult circumstances. I’m confident the plan will give industry the support it needs.”

Jamie Hepburn MSP, Scottish Government minister for business, fair work and skills said, “Over the past decade Scottish construction firms have consistently recruited more Modern Apprentices than those in other sectors, highlighting a clear desire among employers to give young people the skills and experience needed to work in the industry. I am pleased that CITB is continuing to prioritise support for apprentices, ensuring industry can support those in training while attracting new talent. These substantial cuts in CITB levy bills will also be a welcome boost for businesses during this difficult time.

“Skilled employees will be vital for Scotland’s economic recovery, and we will continue to work closely with CITB and industry to make sure people have what they need to succeed in the workplace.”