A new advisory body should be established to oversee the development and maintenance of a competency framework in the construction industry, according to a major report from CITB and HSE.
The building industry still lacks a consistent view of what competence means, the report states, despite the significant progress that has been made in the sector over the last 14 years. The authors call for the establishment of “common philosophies and approaches” that should lead to an “ongoing process of industry-agreed, consensual progress and development”.
Agreement on an industry-wide competence framework would bring “much-needed” clarity, the report states, but will require significant input from the whole sector.
Four approaches to establishing the composition of the council are outlined in the report, Competence in Construction, including: involving representatives from stakeholder groups, such as professional organisations, trade associations and unions; standards setting bodies such as ECITB and SummitSkills; or simply the CITB itself. The structure, constitution and the framework itself should be discussed and agreed at a “formal, national conference”.
“Despite considerable progress in recent years, the construction industry currently lacks a consistent view of what competence means for the industry,” said CITB chief executive Adrian Belton. “This report identifies the issues and makes recommendations on the work that needs to be done to secure pan-industry agreement.
“The report marks the next stage of our journey towards a competent, world-class workforce and achieving the objectives of the Industrial Strategy for Construction. There is still debate to be had and we will ensure that there are opportunities for everyone to have a say.”
The research found that employers remain generally dissatisfied with what they regard as the unnecessary complexity, confusion and costs of the certification and competency cards system. Although there have been notable improvements since 2011, confusion over the purposes of cards from certification schemes has not dissipated.
Researchers from consultants Pye Tait carried out an online survey together with a range of in-depth interviews with stakeholders, employers and informed employees.
From this they concluded that individual competence in construction comprises: occupational skills and knowledge (including functional skills); health and safety skills and knowledge; human factors (including self-, situational- and risk-awareness and communications); and continuous improvement (including positive experience).
Meanwhile organisational capability requires companies to address a range of elements that support and contribute to overall competence including: ergonomics (equipment, facilities, work design, etc); environment; policies; and communication.
Worryingly, the authors found little evidence that employers and employees sufficiently understand the terms “information, instruction, training and supervision” to describe how this is transferred and relates to competence and safety.
In July 2013, the government launched the industrial strategy for the construction sector, setting out the vision and plan for long-term strategic action by government and industry to work together to promote the success of the sector.
Driving up standards of competence and quality was relevant to a number of actions outlined by the strategy, including updating the previous jointly-funded HSE/CITB Routes to Competence work and identifying one card scheme to be promoted through public procurement.
Philip White, chief inspector of construction at HSE, said: “This research report offers the construction industry the building blocks for understanding and agreeing how to deliver a truly competent workforce across all construction related activities.
“We hope the industry will embrace the report and set the agenda for developing its recommendations without delay.”
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