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Quality in construction is quite rightly under the spotlight but to ensure quality we need competent people and one way of achieving this is through competency schemes . The CIOB is already on this path in developing schemes that allow individuals to demonstrate their competency in a robust way. The ‘CIOB Building Conservation Certification’ scheme is the first CIOB competency scheme and, whilst this may be looked upon to be in a niche area, that isn't the case. This scheme is open to all individuals working on traditional buildings regardless of their historical or heritage status. If we bear in mind that over a quarter of the UK building stock is traditionally built and when considering that at least half of the construction industry workforce are deployed on buildings that are already existing, then this obviously is not in a niche area but is a scheme for the mainstream construction industry.

Competency schemes in building conservation have been around for over 25 years and, whilst the CIOB scheme is equivalent to the others in many ways, it is also very different. The CIOB scheme has three levels of competence, the highest of which is at the same level as the other schemes which only have one level. Unlike all the other schemes, it is open to individuals working for building contractors and direct labour organisations. For the first time, individuals such as the managers and supervisors of the workforce planning and implementing the work on site can gain recognition for their competence. Until now, only individuals working for clients or working in consultancy roles would be eligible to join such a scheme. The CIOB scheme is therefore ground breaking, as for the first time competency can be tested in all activity areas, from the initial inspection of buildings and designing of work to the management and implementation of the work on site, concerning work to traditional buildings, categorised as built before 1919. 

Competency schemes work on the basis that individuals have to demonstrate their competence through examples of their work against a set criteria. It is aimed at encouraging individuals to become more competent so that they are good enough to join such a scheme. Once in a scheme they then must undertake continuing professional development (CPD) to maintain and increase competence. Providing individuals have the opportunity to gain sufficient breadth of experience in their role, they are expected to move up a level when they re-certify at intervals of five years. This scheme, unlike some of the equivalent schemes, requires individuals to hold a qualification in building conservation, or to have undertaken the CIOB Academy ‘Understanding Building Conservation’ 2-day course and pass the test at the end.

The Grenfell tower tragedy, following its retrofit, shows all of us that competency should be tested for individuals working on all types of buildings, regardless of age, and the CIOB now has a blue print to follow this through. Such schemes, however, will only be sustainable if there is recognition for the value they add and a demand for individuals to complete them. In building conservation, that demand exists and is steadily increasing. For the rest of the sector, its needs to wise up and recognise the advantages of competency schemes in driving up quality.

Find out more about quality in the conservation, adaptation, and maintenance of the built environment at the CIOB’s upcoming conference in Westminster on Tuesday 28th April 2020.

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