By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East
The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) has responded to complaints from contractors and decided to simplify the application system for those looking for funding.
Complaints came from contractors who want to apply for funding, but claim the process is too complicated so it puts them off. The new changes will apply to the flexible funding system, which currently distributes £20m of funding each year.
The current system has 40 flexible funding streams that give out £140m in funding across all streams, but from next month this will be reduced to only two routes. The idea is that the system will be simplified, and rather than firms having to jump through hoops to decide which funding will be best for them, they will only have two options.
The Flexible Fund will be for short term funding for projects lasting less than 18 month, and The Structured Fund for long term funding, for projects expected to last longer than 18 months- . Both will offer support to projects that help employers find long term solutions to the industry’s major skills challenges.
The current system in place for accessing funding is unnecessarily overcomplicated. It’s not surprising that firms were put off applying, especially for projects which are less than 18 months long, would it really have been worth all the fuss?
The new system, which is due to be put in place next month, seems to be a lot clearer and much more straightforward. I’m in favour of the new system- I’m all for anything to help fund projects which will benefit the industry.
It’s also been announced that the system is undergoing an evaluation to ensure that funding proves to be beneficial and that they are only funding the projects that work. I don’t know why this hasn’t been looked at before- why would you want to give out millions of pounds of funding to projects that you’re not sure are actually going to work?
However, getting the funding right is only half of the solution, the organisation must also identify where the funding is needed most. Throughout the process CITB have worked with an industry advisory group to ensure the funding process is simpler and in the long run more beneficial to the industry needs.
This new approach will see the organisation undertake an analysis on industry skills needs, to understand which skills make the biggest difference within the industry. Putting more funding into improving skills and training, in the areas which need it most, will definitely help the industry reach its growth potential.
I strongly urge all firms wanting to apply for funding to just go for it, especially once the changes come into place and it becomes easier than ever to apply. If you think you would benefit from funding, or could benefit the industry as a whole then do it, what have you got to lose?