Building Standards Year of Young People: attracting young people into a career in building standards

This project investigated why young people are not choosing a career in building standards and looked for ways to encourage them.

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5 Force Map

A wide variety of influences impact on the way in which building standards roles are educated, recruited, and filled. All have an effect on the way future approaches to education and recruitment must be designed.

The following elements describe the main forces in play that should be borne in mind for a future strategy for engaging with young people.

5.1. Positive forces

The Year of Young People

As part of the Scottish Government's Programmes of 'themed years', 2018 was the Year of Young People (YOYP), with a mission to celebrate young people's achievements, value their contribution to communities and create new opportunities for them to shine locally, nationally and globally.

Activities and events focused on six themes that young people identified as most important for them as young Scots, notably culture, education, enterprise and regeneration, equality and discrimination, health and wellbeing, and participation. The theme of education, focused on creating a stronger role for young people in shaping their learning, while the theme of enterprise and regeneration aimed to celebrate young people's role in innovation, entrepreneurship, the Scottish economy, as well as making Scotland a greener and more pleasant place to live.

Involvement of Local Authority Building Standards departments

In delivering the engagement strategy, a partnership approach between LAs and BSD is strongly recommended. Working collaboratively will give the strategy the greatest chance of success.

New career pathway (introduction of Graduate Apprenticeship)

Introducing a Graduate Apprenticeship could help provide a clear entry route into the profession, and the added attraction for applicants of being able to earn whilst they learn.

Existing partnerships and relationships to build on

  • LABSS has been working closely with BSD on the development of the GA and on a complementary competency framework, scheduled for roll-out from Summer 2019.
  • LABC has recently completed similar work on developing a competency framework for England and Wales, with lessons used to inform LABSS's current work.

Links with professional bodies, including RICS and others such as CIOB and CABE, exist (some of which are well-established according to this research), which could be capitalised on. RICS offers a Building Control pathway to Chartered (MRICS) status and Associate (AssocRICS) status to those who have relevant work experience and/or vocational qualifications (e.g. HNC/D).

Existing infrastructure, tools and experience to capitalise on

  • Skills Development Scotland delivers careers guidance in Scotland, in schools and to the wider community. There is a well-developed and embedded network of careers advisors delivering a range of support to young people in schools, and via SDS's community and partner premises across the country.
  • A key part of the SDS offer is delivered via the My World of Work (MyWoW) website which is available to all. It offers support and guidance on career planning, career case studies as well as a dedicated area for parents. The results from the research show that young people (aged 18-26) are well aware of MyWoW and that it is well used: 77% of survey respondents have used it - far more than any other source asked about.
  • The desk research conducted for this strategy found that most building standards vacancies are advertised on, and on LABSS and some LA websites. Awareness of myjobscotland is high amongst young people - 81% of those surveyed know of it, but very few (38%) have used it.
  • Developing the Young Workforce (DYW), is a Scottish Government Youth Employment strategy, to reduce youth unemployment by 40% by 2021. The strategy targets employers, young people and parents as well as career advisers and teachers. Cornerstones of the strategy are to expand pathways and routes from school into employment, to increase young people's awareness of the world of work, to increase uptake of vocational qualifications by school leavers, particularly of MAs and to foster partnerships between employers and education[18].

To achieve the strategy's goals, the Scottish Government has established 21 Developing Young Workforce (DYW) regional groups. Their formation has been guided by the industry-oriented National Invest in Young People Group. They are to "create a bridge between employers and education, providing a resource for teachers and practitioners, and encourage and support employers to recruit and train young people[19]."

The groups take diverging approaches to reducing youth unemployment and have different business and industry partners. Nevertheless, they must all be able to demonstrate[20]:

Private sector leadership
High level buy-in from regional partners
A commitment to engage with a wider range of employers
Capacity by the board to steer the day to day work of the executive
Control and accountability for the use of the Scottish Government resources

  • Work placement/work experience units and departments exist in LAs across Scotland. The role of these bodies is to broker relationships between local employers and schools and colleges. Whilst some of these units are well-advertised, and have a good presence online for example, not all are visible.
  • The ageing building standards workforce, while presenting a challenge may also provide an opportunity for providing valuable knowledge and training to new recruits. Aside from already practiced job shadowing, the vast amount of experience held in the profession may be harnessed to inform training provision such as the proposed GA and/or related college and university courses.
  • Other factors include competitive salaries that are higher than entry level salaries in other disciplines such as architecture or the opportunity to work in the local community, which is a factor in more remote regions.

5.2 Negative forces

Time (ageing workforce)

According to recent research conducted by LABSS, nearly half (46%) of those working within building standards services in Scotland have worked there for over 20 years, and a further 32% have 10-19 years' experience[21]. Feedback from the roundtable conducted for the research pointed to a predicted need to fill 150 vacancies in the next five years[22].

In general, hiring experienced workers to bridge the gap creates problems for LAs, which often have to search for workers Scotland-wide or even abroad in the case of one LA who took part in a telephone interview. There is a practice of poaching experienced workers, many of whom are already in their 50s. One LA, however, reported that hiring from abroad was not a big issue, where the individual had experience of working in the oil & gas industry, due to the presence of such facilities in the LA area.

The urgency of addressing the replacement demand is two-fold:

  • Attracting sufficient new recruits with potential for longevity in the role to replace workers when they retire;
  • Ensuring the skills and knowledge possessed by prospective retirees is passed onto new recruits (as far as is practicable).

Many other areas of the construction and built environment sector are currently suffering from an ageing workforce. These sectors are also seeking to attract young people into their talent pipeline (see 'competition from other roles') below.

Unclear pathways into the profession

The routes into the profession need to be clear (contingent on the above). Currently, there is no centralised or harmonised pathway into the profession, resulting in a patchwork approach (as described in section 3.1). LAs recruit based on local needs as well as different local interpretations of the nature of the profession.

Competition from other roles

As well as facing their own internal challenges, as highlighted in this section, building standards services also face competition from other sectors of the built environment. Given the diverse range of entry routes, the recruitment pool into building standards is potentially very large, however there is an evident lack of knowledge and awareness of building standards meaning that competition from other more well-known and/or seemingly more attractive sectors wins out.

Compared with building standards, young people surveyed for this research have greater knowledge and understanding of: engineering; architectural design; property development and real estate consultancy.

There is of course direct competition from private-sector surveying companies for graduates, and competition from many other sectors for those looking to pursue an MA and for those achieving technical qualifications, such as an HND. Furthermore, evidence from the survey of young people confirms that employment in the private sector is more attractive than central government, local government, or the voluntary sector (Figure 21).

Lack of awareness of building standards

In general, there is a widespread lack of awareness of the building standards profession among young people.

College and university students from construction-related disciplines are divided on the description of building standards roles and are mostly unaware of daily tasks. Correspondingly, as 16-18 year olds are most likely to take up apprenticeships and degrees, the nature of the profession and related tasks will have to be explained in a tailored manner while considering preferred information sources and mechanisms outlined in section 4.2. In addition, the preferred aspects of promoting public safety should be highlighted amongst all age groups, while a variety of tasks including on-site work should also be underscored.

Another factor may be the title 'Building Standards'. Previously in Scotland, and currently elsewhere in Great Britain, the role is referred to as 'Building Control', which may lead to confusion and a lack of visibility of building standards. Indeed, RICS pathways, and role profiles published on Go Construct, My World of Work and UCAS websites are titled 'Building Control', which may confuse those interested in a career in building standards and who may perhaps choose an alternative route as a consequence (this links to the previous sub-section 'Competition from other roles').

Funding for new roles

This in practice would include funding for new 'trainee' type roles, possibly an MA and a Graduate route for those undertaking a Graduate Apprenticeship (GA).

In current practice, securing funding for filling or re-filling a position seems to be paramount over finding the right candidates for junior or less experienced vacancies in building standards.



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