The National Construction College’s Cathall Rd. facility UPDATE: local people still miss out

Courtesy of the LBWF Growth Scrutiny Committee, I now have some up-to-date figures on how many people – and in particular how many local people – have attended The National Construction College’s Cathall Rd. facility.

As I pointed out in a previous post on this subject, LBWF initially promised that the College would have a dramatic impact on the locality. In December 2010, Council Leader Cllr Chris Robbins told Waltham Forest News that it was ‘“a fantastic, world-class training facility for local residents and people from across east London”’ and endorsed the view that ‘over the next four years the Construction Training Centre will provide training for more than 4000 local people’ (see WFN, 13 December 2010). A year later, a paper to Cabinet, signed off by then portfolio holder Cllr. Afzal Akram, promised ‘1000 unemployment [sic] residents will be trained by the Centre per year over the next 7 years’.

As my previous post showed, performance to 2013 was nowhere near that forecast. It is now clear that subsequently little has changed.

Between January 2013 and May 2015, 5,088 people attended all the College’s myriad training courses, but only 268 or 5 per cent were Waltham Forest residents, well below the target, which is said to be 8 per cent.

Turning to the most significant form of training on offer, apprenticeships, the situation is even worse. In the same period, there were 1598 apprentices trained in total, but only 41 or 2.5 per cent were Waltham Forest residents.

As to the number of College attendees who subsequently found jobs, inexplicably though perhaps indicatively, no data at all was collected to January 2014, and subsequently there does not seem to be a consistent series. But one estimate is that between January 2015 and May 2015, while ‘866 clients have gone through the…College’, only 30 (or 3 per cent) ‘have found work either directly with an organisation or as self-employed’ (with no information available as to how many of the 30 were Waltham Forest residents).

Finally, with regard to finance, it is claimed that employers and central government currently pay for the majority of College courses, with LBWF injecting some funds from s106 monies and a contract with the London Legacy Development Corporation. However, it should be remembered that LBWF originally invested at least £1,318,000 in building the College, so if c.850 locals have benefited so far (an estimate that projects from the apparently fairly reliable 2013-15 figures) the cost to the local tax payer at a minimum equates to c. £1,500 per person, extraordinary given that possibly as many as half of attendees were only on short courses that lasted less than a day.

Of course, something is better than nothing, but the blunt fact is that outcomes for local people have in no way matched the grandiose forecasts of 2010 and 2011.

It is difficult not to conclude that we have been subjected to a low-level con trick.

I believe that there now should be an inquiry as to what has gone wrong, and in particular why no KPIs regarding local residents were included in the scene-setting 2011 contract between LBWF and its delivery agent, CITB-ConstructionSkills’ National Construction College, something that seems to me to be at the bottom of the failure.

Whether the Growth Scrutiny Committee has the appetite for such an inquiry will be an interesting test of its bone fides.

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