The challenges facing the building standards profession in Scotland, as identified in the LABSS survey, a dedicated stakeholder roundtable in the course of this project, and the wider survey of this study, are manifold.
1. Several findings have pointed to what is said to be a lack of a clear and dedicated pathway into the building standards profession in Scotland. Nonetheless, the evidence from careers advisers and young people seems to place greater emphasis on a general lack of understanding of what building standards professionals do and a possible perception of the work being "boring" and underpaid.
2. However, skills and knowledge requirements have evolved due to technological and legislative change, creating opportunities for building standards professionals to develop specialist knowledge and expertise. Emphasising these opportunities and the varied nature of the work may help counteract negative views of the profession.
3. Entry routes into a number of professions are complex but that, alone, is rarely a problem in terms of recruitment.
4. The ageing workforce in building standards is a critical factor and driving LAs to try to recruit a larger number of experienced staff. A lack of recruitment success in the younger cohorts in previous years (which LAs suggest they are recently managing to overcome) may have exacerbated the issue. It is a position in which even success in attracting young people into Modern and Graduate apprenticeships will take a number of years to bear fruit. Keeping those people will require attention to conditions of service.
5. Young people at school, college and university, even when studying related qualifications, are largely unaware of the profession. Nevertheless, LAs confirm that recruiting young people and/or workers with related qualifications in surveying, construction and building, is not posing a serious issue in practice.
It has been estimated by LABSS that around 150 replacement staff are required by building standards departments in the next five years. Of these, possibly half or two thirds may be required as young entrants. These numbers would appear to underpin the feedback we obtained from LAs that, on the whole, the recruitment issue is not excessively difficult.
Rather, it seems the main problem for LAs is securing funding for new positions. This is widely seen as a key hurdle. In this context, the LAs have found their own individual ways to recruit candidates with the right skills for lower-level vacancies, while confirming that the recruitment of experienced building standards professionals remains a crucial challenge.
In terms of engaging young people, the surveys of young people and career advisers have confirmed that young people prefer engagement by social media, electronic means, and open days. The career information is preferred to be up-to-date, detailed and providing real-time information. The young people studying building standards-related disciplines tend to have been attracted by salary and career prospects, while family advice is also very important. Overall, the young respondents have confirmed that they most value the advice of parents and friends when choosing a career but they are attracted by salary and conditions, and by status.
These preferences will have to be supplemented by the points for a career engagement strategy as identified by career advisers (as described in section 4.4).
These include clear information on entry routes, success stories (case studies), career prospects, and a close cooperation with Skills Development Scotland to give information on vacancies. Case studies emphasising the human side of careers - personal satisfaction, team work, job satisfaction, etc., would be the target for this aspect of promotion.
All such actions will also need to be tailored to parents as a priority target audience and key influencers of young people's career decisions.
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