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Building A Better Future

Bill Dodds, Head of Building Standards at the Scottish Government, tells CABLEtalk how he hopes Certification of Construction will eventually become the ‘norm’ across the industry.

IT’S almost 10 years since legislation designed to recognise the competency of tradespeople working in the construction industry was enacted in Scotland.

Much has been achieved since 2005 with government-backed ‘certification’ schemes spanning the building industry – from structural engineering to electrical installations.

SELECT is just one of the trade associations responsible for the delivery of a scheme: Certification of Construction (Electrical Installations to BS7671).

Its Member firms are actively encouraged to promote the scheme and it has become an annual focus at the SELECT Industry Awards.

However it is well documented that SELECT would like to see the scheme become ‘mandatory’ to ensure the quality of all tradespeople can be effectively regulated.

While that is a desirable outcome for many, the man responsible for the various schemes in Scotland says the reality is that EU legislation prevents such a prescriptive approach.

Instead Bill Dodds, Head of Building Standards at the Scottish Government, sees a forthcoming industry workshop as a “fantastic opportunity” to deliver the objectives of the schemes through closer partnership working.

In his offices at Denholm House in Livingston, Bill tells CABLEtalk that he wants to see the 24 delegates coming together to take “joint ownership” of industry-wide efforts to drive up standards.

“We’ll do the best we can do but it won’t be a success unless everybody gets on board. The idea is that the output from this workshop will be a strategy document containing an action plan setting out what the group have collectively agreed to do.

“So it’s not a Scottish Government report, it’s a consensual report for all those involved in the industry to take joint ownership and make things better. It’s not a case of ‘it’s ours’.”

Bill explains that the outcome is likely to be that the Scottish Government steers the strategy but that other partner organisations attending from Electrical Safety First (formerly the Electrical Safety Council) to the Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation (SNIPEF), and local authorities – all leave with their own ‘bit’ to do.“We will do our upmost to make sure objectives that fall to us will be delivered. We will also monitor objectives set for others to make sure that together the strategy is delivering our desired outcomes.He adds: “Although all the details haven’t been worked through yet, I would imagine there might be regular get togethers throughout the year to check on progress.”Bill’s enthusiasm is tempered by the fact that Certificate numbers have fallen in recent years.

He hopes the workshop, at Edinburgh’s Apex European Hotel on September 24, will provide not only a platform for discussion but also explanation of the factors behind the drop off.

He says he realises the economic downturn may have impacted on certification – in particular where fees are concerned – but there has not been a commensurate uplift as we move back into a period of growth.

“So it’s almost a case of you lost some certifiers in the downturn, how do you get them back in the upturn? How do you re-engage them? What

we would ask is that organisations like SELECT ask their members ‘why don’t you want to be a certifier?’ What are the issues? Is it cost?? Do you not see any benefit?? What is it that successful certifiers see in the system that adds value to their business? Can they share this with others to get them on board.”

He says: “But we’ll only know all that with the help of the trade associations, acting as the voice. So what we’d hope is that anything they’ve had concerns about, that we become part of that feedback loop.

“That’s why one of the actions coming out of the workshop very well might be that ‘we can do all of this’ but ‘what are you going to do as a scheme provider? We’ve built up an expectation that this is all going to get better but do you know as an organisation what you can do to improve Certification for your members?”

Bill also explains that the event could be a great opportunity for partners to understand how other schemes have achieved success.

He says, in particular, the Scheme for Certification of Design (Building Structures) in Scotland – operated by Structural Engineers Registration (SER) – is doing well.

“The SER scheme it’s a success without any real promotion. It’s understanding why it is a success and then using that learning, use the levers they have in that scheme, to be the triggers that drive people towards wanting to be certifiers of construction. It’s the norm for structural engineering design to be certified. It isn’t the norm for electrical construction to be certified at the moment. So we need to understand how to make a shift to make all schemes a success.”

He said the Scottish Government over the last year has commissioned a number of research projects to look at the issues affecting certification. The research outcomes will form the basis of the workshop and he believes this demonstrates the Scottish Government’s commitment to “getting things right”. “A key outcome of the workshop will be raising awareness of the benefits of certification for all. This will hopefully help inform a better understanding of the many different audiences but also boost awareness and take-up of the schemes,” he adds.

“The process will also provide an opportunity to see what has been achieved since the policy was implemented and what more can be done.

“There are many really positive things happening in the industry and we want to recognise that. But we also want to make sure we’re not missing a trick.”

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