New blood vital to the SPOA

Jim Houstoun, Past President of  the Scottish Plant Owners Association (SPOA), currently involved with training for members, explains why the organisation remains in robust health and analyses some of the
upcoming challenges it faces, including structural changes at the CITB.

BrIan Young and Fraser Dykes

It was good to observe at the recent AGM of the SPOA that this important member of the Scottish plant hire and construction sector is in robust health as they approached their 65th Annual Dinner at the Hilton Hotel (held on February 5).
I was pleased to note the addition of “new blood” to the Executive Committee since my time in office as President, as well as the retention of experienced members Gordon Anderson (GAP Group), Adam Bruce (AB2000 Limited), Bill Paterson (R.J. McLeod), Graham Geddes (Geddes Group), Robert Taylor (Malcolm Group), Marshall Carmichael (Markay Plant), Steven Mulholland (MPS), David Sibbald (Sibbald Training), and Gordon Bow (Gordon Bow Plant), to provide sage guidance and direction.
President Fraser Dykes (AMD Construction), newly-elected Vice President Graham Bow (Gordon Bow Plant), Ross Easton (Lomond Plant), Mark Anderson (GAP Group) and Stuart Granton (Jarvie Plant) are young men and provide continuity of representation for businesses that have long associations as members of the SPOA.
Brian Young (Young Plant) was elected as a member of the Executive Committee at the AGM and Brian will bring his own knowledge and experience to future meetings.
Proceedings were, as always, conducted in a very professional manner by the secretary Graham Bell of Wright, Johnston and MacKenzie LLP. The financial reports show that the SPOA and the Aitken White Memorial Trust are very well funded. The Aitken White Memorial Trust will continue to pay for the text books of plant hire apprentices attending Springburn College as part of their training.
Challenges faced by the SPOA Executive Committee include the structural changes now well underway at the CITB and changes to the CITB funding and levies.
As one of the UK’s Consensus Federations representing the construction industry, SPOA is consulted on the CITB Levy when authority to collect the levy falls due to be renewed for three years by legal statute.
Like other organisations involved in the construction industry the SPOA represents its members regarding the rate at which the levy has been charged as well as the recent decision by the Chancellor to introduce a new 0.5% wage levy to fund training places.
Final clarification as to how that will apply to businesses in construction who are already levy payers remains to be confirmed.
The CITB is engaged in a long overdue rationalisation exercise that will see a number of experienced, some say vitally important individuals, leaving the organisation.
Some posts/positions at CITB have been radically reduced in number.  Employees put “on notice of redundancy” who haven’t already moved on or decided to retire, are having to apply for the new posts.
The SPOA has been pressing CITB to undertake a review since 2009 when many businesses involved in the construction industry were forced to implement reductions to survive the economic downturn.
The feedback so far on the changes being made now, however, doesn’t inspire confidence that, even after having taken so long to think about them, the CITB are getting this right.
Having attended a “workshop” for the second round of the CITB’s Structured and Flexible Funds that opened a 4-week window for Stage 1 applications to be submitted on 19 January 2016, the new funding process has definitely not, in my view, “been simplified” as claimed.
Funds are provided on a 30/70 basis meaning that organisations and businesses who apply successfully are required to contribute 30% of the cost.  That can be “in kind” rather than in cash.
The new application forms and the funding process are complex and pernickety compared with the funding application forms submitted for Qualifying the Workforce funding for the last three years. Major concerns about this were expressed by many of the people who attended the workshop.
The facts given at the workshop are that of circa 73 No Stage 1 funding applications submitted when the first window opened last October, only 23 or thereby made it to Stage 2.
Some organisations whose applications were successful at Stage 1 decided to withdraw from the process at Stage 2.
Given the overall income of circa £295m of the CITB (including levy payments), the total fund of £20m per annum allocated for “Structured and Flexible Funds” from the CITB appears somewhat miserly.
The SPOA will however continue to represent its members and will be submitting a funding application for a programme of management training for directors, managers and supervisors – a key area arising from the 2015 Qualifying the Workforce survey returns.