CITB is taking the first tentative steps into adopting a long-term “evaluation” mindset. Now what do I mean when I say “evaluation”?
Some people think it is something that happens to people, rather than with them. Others think it happens at the end of a project, is a complete hassle and uncovers things you do not want to hear!
The reality is much simpler. For CITB and for the construction employers we fund, evaluation is about taking a planned approach to assessing the extent to which a project achieved what it set out to do.
I recently represented CITB at the Evaluation Society Annual Conference, the largest gathering of evaluators in the UK, to discuss our Flexible and Structured Funding Programme.
This funding programme has awarded £35 million to date and is expected to rise to £50 million by 2020.
CITB’s approach to evaluation is to be rigorous, proportionate and transparent and we are looking at individual projects, funding themes and then the entire Funding Programme itself.
Focusing on outcomes
It is vital that CITB communicates with our employers every step of the way.
That’s why we are working closely with companies to focus less on the activity of the projects we fund and more on the outcomes they will achieve.
Our approach is evolving. When we evaluated a project in the past, we tended to just look at a process, and, for example, say how satisfied learners were with their training.
However, what we really need to know is how their behaviour will change as a result of this learning. Also what outcome will this training have in terms of changing what the learner does when they’re back at work on site?
An important part of evaluation is failure. It’s perfectly OK to talk about it.
Common failures include: not having a baseline; inappropriate measurement and lack of long-term follow-up.
Similarly, it is not always easy to transfer the results of every project. Context counts, so we have to assess what works, for whom, why, and in which contexts.
Driving improvements in skills and training
Construction is a sector full of complexities and we are working hard to drive improvements in skills and training across the sector. In addition, CITB is undergoing some radical reforms to streamline and become more effective and accountable for the industry we serve.
Evaluation is the way forward. It is a mindset that underpins CITB’s Vision 2020 and our plans to modernise and repurpose the organisation so we become a leaner, more agile, training body that delivers the skills needed by construction firms and the British economy.
Comprehensive evaluations will help us produce more usable results than just looking at “the vulgar numbers”! It will also enhance our adaptive management and continuous improvement.
It can take more than 10 years to embed evaluation properly into the culture of a company. I’m happy to say that the process is well underway at CITB, the foundations are in place.
About the author
Rachel Iredale is CITB's Evaluation and Impact Manager.