Competence: a timely cultural change for our industry

Blog by Peter Caplehorn, Chief Executive of the Construction Products Association

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government has recently closed its consultation on Building a Safer Future, that builds on the recommendations from Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety and proposes fundamental reform of building safety requirements so that residents are safe, and feel safe, in their homes. As the conversation progresses, it is only right that we remind ourselves of the wider cultural change our industry is undergoing.

Key amongst these various improvements is competence. It goes to the heart of everything we do as an industry and is essential if we are to design, construct and maintain buildings that perform as intended.

In the wake of Grenfell, the Industry Response Group (IRG) made up of Build UK, CIC and the CPA recognised competence as a key and pressing priority for reform. Hackitt’s Review rightly recognised it too and the debate about skills in our industry – whether we have enough or even the right ones – has been brought front and centre. CPD seminars, courses and workshops count for nothing if they don’t translate into reduced risk in our built environment and better quality builds.

Competence was a central concern for the IRG’s working groups, each of which addressed specific occupations referenced in the Hackitt Review.  The work of these groups has now reached a significant stage with the publication of an interim report. Setting out proposals from all the working groups, the report explores how to define competence, the complimentary role digitalisation can play in improving it and the challenges to ensuring this is both embraced by and embedded within the culture of our industry.

One of government’s key asks was for industry to create a body to oversee and evaluate competence in the future. Scott Steeman of BSI has been tasked with looking specifically at this area and a proposal has now been developed for competence oversight that complements other reforms being proposed by government. This body, along with the wider IRG work on competence, are all aimed at raising the bar of competence in our industry and creating a much needed and timely culture change.

Grenfell was undoubtedly our industry’s crisis moment, but attempts to improve competence demonstrate our appetite to drive positive change and reduce the risk of such disasters in the future. This new focus on quality and high standards is not an option but a necessity if we are to regain public trust as an industry.

The IRG’s full interim report is now open for consultation with industry invited to comment and make suggestions. Responses can be sent to no later than 18 October 2019. You can also access the Executive SummaryAppendix for working groups 1-3 and Appendix for working groups 4-12