Building standards - verifiers management and training and development recording: review
A study to investigate how the recording of training needs identified through the Competency Assessment System (CAS) is managed. Also how the current systems and processes can inform the development of a learning and development hub for the building standards profession.
This document is part of a collection
1. The building standards system in Scotland is intended to protect the public interest by setting out the standards to be met when building work or a conversion takes place, to the extent necessary to meet the building regulations. The 32 Scottish local authorities have been appointed as verifiers to provide independent checking of building work at design and construction stages.
2. Following a report by the Compliance and Enforcement review Panel, the Scottish Government, Building Standards Division launched its workforce strategy in October 2020 to strengthen the resilience of the building standards service. As part of the workforce strategy, a Competency Assessment System (CAS) for building standards staff was developed. The CAS provides a consistent set of competencies that are linked to relevant training and work-based learning options to support attainment.
3. The aim of the study is to investigate how the recording of training needs identified through the CAS is managed and how the current systems and processes can inform the development of a learning and development hub for the building standards profession.
4. The research comprised two main components. First, an online survey of building standards managers was undertaken to understand the current (pre-CAS) processes and systems for recording training and development needs and to understand their initial experiences of using the CAS toolkit. A total of 13 authorities responded to the survey.
5. Second, a series of discussions were held with eight local authorities and the Improvement Service to explore in more depth how the CAS can be incorporated into wider local authority systems and any improvements that could be made for its online delivery.
Current Process for Identifying, Recording and Addressing Training Needs
6. All 13 local authorities undertake an annual review to identify the training and development needs of building standards staff. These reviews use generic local authority forms which are usually completed by the employee on a self-completion basis before a face-to-face meeting with their manager. The role of human resources (HR) in the process is relatively limited, but HR can play a monitoring role to ensure the reviews are undertaken.
7. Some authorities consolidated training and development needs into a 'training plan', but this was not universal.
8. Training and development needs tend to be formally recorded in the specific local authority appraisal form and most authorities use Microsoft Office packages for storing the information e.g., Word, Excel. One authority has a more integrated system which includes an online appraisal form. Most authorities referred to authority-wide software which usually relates to payroll and other HR processes, but which can sometimes be linked to mandatory training needs.
9. For most authorities, ensuring training needs are addressed is the joint responsibility of the member of staff and their line manager. The majority of responding authorities identified a role for a central corporate learning and development team, although there were some qualifications surrounding their role. This team usually had a role in the delivery of mandatory corporate training.
10. Responding authorities were asked to rate their existing processes and systems in terms of how well they meet building standards needs on a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is very poorly and 5 is very well. While authorities' views on current systems were mixed, the average ratings of the current systems are:
- Identifying training needs – 3.4
- Recording training needs – 2.9
- Addressing training needs - 3.1
11. The results show that the current systems are better at identifying training and development needs than recording or addressing training and development needs. Some of the shortfalls of existing systems include:
- The process can be overly complicated and cumbersome.
- There are no core building standards competencies to assess against.
- System does not allow a comparison of needs and compilation of an overall list.
- Training needs can be lost if the form is not used as a live document.
- Needs are sometimes recorded in multiple locations.
- There is a lack of building standards specific training opportunities with corporate courses tending to be generic.
- Training is not always delivered without tracking and constant progress checks.
12. Approximately half of respondents to the online survey had undertaken assessments using the new CAS. Respondents generally found the assessment planning and agreement stage to be fairly straightforward although it could be very time consuming. The templates for the different roles were helpful, but needed to be tweaked to reflect specific authority needs.
13. Concerns were expressed about the amount of evidence required and the need to balance the volume of evidence with sufficient evidence to validate competency. Not all respondents had completed the full CAS process, but the assessment, decision making and recording of outcomes were felt to be structured processes, although it was highlighted that it is monitoring that is important and will make the difference.
14. Authorities were asked to rate how they think the new CAS fits into their existing processes and systems for identifying, recording and addressing training and development needs on a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is very poorly and 5 is very well. No authority gave a rating of 1 (very poor) with the average ratings shown below:
- Identifying training needs – 3.8
- Recording training needs – 3.8
- Addressing training needs – 3.5
15. The benefits of the CAS process related to the job specific roles being clearly defined and the template providing a means of identifying training needs, the type of training required and when the training has been completed.
16. On the negative side, there were concerns over the amount of time required to complete the process, the potential for duplication of existing processes in some authorities and the lack of specific training available to address the identified needs.
Integration with Existing Systems
17. The majority of consultation authorities hoped to consolidate the information relating to skills gaps and identified training needs into a 'master' spreadsheet to allow the training needs of the team to be integrated into a training plan. It was generally felt that the CAS process can fit relatively easily into the local authority systems. CAS cannot replace the annual appraisal process as this deals with matters other than just building standards competency, but it can feed into the overall process.
18. Where HR representatives were involved in the discussions, there was generally positive feedback regarding the integration of CAS outputs into existing processes and systems. However, the time-inputs required for completion and the complexity of the spreadsheet were suggested as being off-putting.
19. CAS training needs should fit into authority processes for delivering training, but concerns were raised about who would pay for training with substantial variation across authorities in the availability of training budgets.
Future Improvements to CAS
20. There was general support for the digital delivery of CAS with a digital version suggested as being important given the size and complexity of the existing version. A number of suggestions for improvements were made including making some of the processes quicker (e.g., a function for completing multiple cells with the same information rather than entering the information in every cell), development of a database for collating overall training needs and linking the assessment worksheet to the skills gap worksheet to pull information from one to the other.
21. It was suggested that an assessment would be required to determine the cost effectiveness of digitising the CAS spreadsheet with initial discussions suggesting that could be a substantial task and software may have to be developed to consolidate the outputs from CAS.
22. All authorities have e-learning platforms which are used to deliver corporate learning courses. There was variation in the platforms used, but there is some ability to deliver e-learning. Not all these platforms 'talk' to each other, but it was suggested that workarounds could often be found if outputs could be produced in excel. However, having systems which could be linked automatically would be preferred.
23. Overall, there was general agreement that a digital system would fit within their existing systems.
Learning and Development Hub
24. Almost all authorities felt that CAS provides a platform for the development of a learning and development hub as it could enable the documentation of training and development needs and the bringing together of these needs across authorities. The CAS provides the opportunity to identify topics where training is required and where there is a shortfall in provision. These topics could be covered by on-line learning via learning and development hub modules and matched to an individuals identified training gaps.
25. CAS was generally considered to be good opportunity for the centralised management and ownership of learning delivery with the benefits identified as being structured training, economies of scale in delivering training, consistency of training across Scotland and the flexibility that online delivery can offer.
26. Development of the hub will require decisions on where to focus resources and the type of training and development required e.g., briefing papers, event, e-learning courses, discussion groups etc. Different issues will arise depending on the type of training to be delivered. It was suggested that approaches to delivering e-learning are changing with different formats and more creative use of technologies to deliver content e.g., videos with workshops, more 'bite-sized' content.
27. A few concerns (from supportive respondents) were raised about the hub including how it would be funded and the need for authorities to be upfront about their training needs and skills gaps. However, there was not universal support for the hub. All authorities are appointed as verifiers in their own right but are resourced differently and have different needs. It was suggested that if a national building standard service is needed, then there should be a national service. Competency had not been an issue before and there were other matters to address before competency.
There is a problem
Thanks for your feedback