2.1. About building standards verification in Scotland
The building standards system in Scotland is established by the Building (Scotland) Act 2003. The system is intended to ensure that building work on both new and existing buildings results in buildings that meet reasonable standards.
In Scotland, all 32 LAs are appointed by Scottish Ministers as verifiers of the building standards system for their own geographical areas. The role of the verifier is to protect the public interest by undertaking independent checks of buildings at design stage and construction stage. This includes checking of applications for building warrants; carrying out inspections of construction activities through the process of 'Reasonable Inquiry'; and accepting or rejecting completion certificates.
All building standards services in Scotland work to a national Operating Framework and Performance Framework. The Performance Framework comprises three main themes: 1) Professional Expertise and Technical Processes; 2) Quality Customer Experience, and 3) Operational and Financial Efficiency. Under theme 1, verifiers are tasked to ensure the necessary professional expertise to efficiently and effectively undertake all technical aspects of building standards verification and have contingencies for when this expertise is not available in-house.
2.2. The workforce bottle-neck
According to Local Authority Building Standards Scotland (LABSS), the membership organisation for building standards services, the current building standards workforce in Scotland comprises approximately 500 professional surveyors, inspectors and support staff. A 2018 LABSS survey of all 32 Scottish LAs confirmed that the workforce is highly experienced and educated, with 46% having worked in the profession for more than 20 years and 32% for between 10 and 19 years. Moreover, around half (49%) of building standards professionals are reported to be at least degree-qualified and 97% hold an HNC qualification or above.
However, local building standards services appear to be facing succession-planning issues and a lack of young people entering the profession. Firstly, the LABSS survey highlighted the issue of an aging workforce, with just over a quarter (26%) of staff aged over 55. Secondly, the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) positions has declined in recent years and the majority of LAs believe funding pressures are making it difficult to recruit sufficient staff to deliver an optimum level of service.
2.3. Research objectives and methodology
To tackle the burgeoning challenge, the aim of the research was to investigate why young people are not choosing a career in building standards and to identify how best to encourage them to do so. Specific objectives for the work are to:
2. engage with young people to understand their priorities when considering further education and potential careers, what understanding they have of building standards at different stages of education and to identify if there are any blockages to entering the profession. This is covered in sections 3, 4 and 5.
3. identify the level of education and training required by LA building standards departments when employing new staff, and the support that they offer. This is covered in section 3.
4. determine the preferred communication tools (e.g. digital, social media, open day, career advisors, career fair) to encourage and attract young people into the building standards service in Scotland; This is covered in sections 4 and 5.
5. develop an innovative careers engagement strategy for careers in building standards and develop examples of materials/mediums that can be used in schools, colleges and universities to best provide an adaptable and long-term solution. This is presented in a separate document.
6. consider a range of options to manage the on-going delivery of the building standards careers engagement strategy. This is presented in a separate document.