Worries grow that Competence Steering Group interim recommendations leave questions unanswered


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Experts have questioned how a new report aiming at tackling the competency issues in the industry would work in practice.

The Competency Steering Group’s interim report, Raising the Bar, published at the end of last week, made 67 recommendations looking to establish a new building safety competence committee and come up with competence frameworks to apply to all those working on high-risk residential buildings.

The report, which is out to consultation until 18 October, was put together by the Construction Industry Council in response to the call in Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of building safety regulations to improve the level of industry skills and knowledge.

The Hackitt review identified that the industry approach to competence was fragmented with lower skill levels than other parts of the world. It recommended the construction industry needed a more coherent approach to skills and needed to develop a competence framework for high risk residential buildings. 

But Steve Cooper, a director at fire engineering consultant Tenos, and member of a competence steering group working group, said the aims of the report were “laudable” but its implementation will be problematic.

He said: “What competence looks like, who will be the arbiter of competence, how this is implemented and who enforces it is going to be very problematic and difficult to agree.”

Cooper also said that meeting the recommendations in the report would make projects more expensive, adding: “Something that is robust and rigorous enough to make a difference is going to be very difficult and will be expensive.”

Others also warned that the new frameworks could take years to roll out.

Rebecca Rees, a partner at law firm Trowers & Hamlins and also member of a competence steering group working group, said: “Clients say that to make this level of change they will need between five and 10 years.”

She added that even if universities agreed to train future construction professionals in accordance with the new competency and legislative framework, it will take five years to have people graduating who are trained to the new standards.

Rees also said, by focusing the remit of these recommendations solely on high-risk residential buildings, there could be problems created for the rest of the industry.

She added: “There is a risk of a two-tier industry developing where all the people deemed competent under the new framework are working on high-risk residential schemes.”

And SEC Group chief executive Rudi Klein said the recommendations did not go far enough: “We should have a statutory licencing system for both individuals and for companies working across the entire industry.”

Key points: what the Raising the Bar report recommends

  • A new building safety competence committee
  • Principles of competence to apply universally to all those working on high rise residential buildings and other buildings deemed to be in scope
  • Competence frameworks to apply to different specialisms, for example fire engineers, project managers and installers.
  • Recommendations to apply to all government projects, not just high rise residential buildings
  • Government to mandate registration by recognised and relevant professional or certification bodies
  • Installers to have minimum qualifications and to undertake regular CPD training
  • New role of independent construction assessor to ensure the building construction matches the design intent

The full report can be found here