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Construction grants feel recession's pinch

Record claims for construction grants last year have resulted in a cutback in the number and size of funds offered by the CITB-ConstructionSkills Grants Scheme.
The decision to give smaller grants and in some cases remove specific grants altogether, has been made with the aim of focusing on 'core' business critical grants to ensure the industry training board can continue giving financial help to bosses during the recession and beyond.

Last year, £176m was paid out to 23,500 construction firms in grants to support training. The record number of claims resulted in the initial forecasts of grant being exceeded by £20m. This prompted a review of the Grants Scheme by CITB-ConstructionSkills to work out a way of ensuring it can continue supporting business critical training.

The Grants Scheme is underpinned by a levy, which the government asks CITB- ConstructionSkills to raise on employers. Over 100% of the levy is returned to employers in training grants and support. With levy income expected to fall below original predictions in 2009/10, the CITB-ConstructionSkills Board said it was 'forced to make tough decisions and prioritise those grants that best meet the industry’s training requirements'.

A number of grants have been affected by the changes to the grants scheme. These include:

-Reduction of the Technical and Professional achievement grant (from £1,000 - £500).

-Removal of Investors in People grant – although existing plans will be honoured and companies who have already committed can apply to receive Investors in People grant until July 31 2010 (total of £5,000).

-Removal of On Site Assessment and Training profiling grant (£100).

-The limit for Short Duration grants will be reduced (from £10,000 to £5,000 per year)

-Removal of the Health and Safety Test grant (£17.50). Health & Safety training will continue to be supported through the Training and Development Plan and Short Duration routes.

-Reduction in the supplementary payment rates for grants – with the exception of apprentice and new entrant grants from 25% to 20%.

-Removal of grant for the CIOB Site Management and First Line Supervisor modules (£250 per module).

The changes to the Grants Scheme, which take effect from August 1, 2009, were made following consultation with employers and industry via the CITB-ConstructionSkills Board, the Training Committee and the Grants Scheme Working Party.

Chris Jones, learning and development director at BAM Construct UK Ltd and chair of the Grants Scheme Working Party said: “The record numbers of grant claims for 2008 means that we needed to take a serious look at the grants that we can provide. We need to be ready for an upturn when it happens and these changes have secured the Grants Scheme, which is good news for the industry.”

In line with the current challenges facing industry, core grants for apprenticeships and new entrants remain unchanged and CITB-ConstructionSkills has promised to protect these from any further reviews of the scheme that may be necessary according to economic conditions'.

Mark Farrar, chief executive of ConstructionSkills (sector skils council for the construction industry) said: “By making these necessary changes, we are guaranteeing help and support for businesses and we will continue to provide grants that will help steer the industry through these difficult times.”
4 March 2009

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