BUILT ENVIRONMENT JOURNAL

LABC opens academy to attract new talent

The new LABC academy aims to build a pipeline of diverse talent in building control that will benefit society by creating a safer, more sustainable built environment

Author:

  • Lorna Stimpson

09 January 2024

Four men on construction site

Following the success of an initial government-funded programme, Local Authority Building Control (LABC) is launching a new academy for building control professionals.

This will provide additional capacity at local authorities, improving the Building Regulations approvals process and introducing the next generation of competent professionals into construction.

LABC continues government training initiative

Ahead of the implementation of the Building Safety Act 2022, the UK government funded a programme to develop new capacity in public service local authority building control in England.

The government programme saw 115 trainee building control surveyors recruited, and it was so successful that LABC decided to continue the programme.

It means we will invest more than £500,000 a year to recruit a steady stream of talent into building control. Our ambition is to make building control a beacon in construction, showing others how we can work together to address skills shortages and bring new people into the sector.

We are currently looking for around 25 recruits to place into jobs with councils across England and Wales immediately. These will come from an initial shortlist of nearly 100 candidates, after more than 1,000 applied.

The successful applicants will become trainee building control surveyors with a two-year fixed-term contract from LABC, secondments to councils for on-the-job training and expert mentoring, fully funded vocational qualifications and time for study, and eventual official registration as building inspectors.

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Academy can help meet need for inspectors

The timing is perfect: the Building Safety Regulator introduced a register of building inspectors, and all practising building control professionals will have to be registered by April. LABC's funded trainees will be ready to do so from next year, if not sooner.

Feedback from applicants is that this drive for a safer industry was what interested them in the academy. Many were drawn by the sense of purpose and the ability to make a difference in their local communities.

It is an attractive offer. As well as finding roles for trainees in local authorities near where they live, LABC will take care of all their education and training needs.

They will obtain level 4 and 5 building control qualifications, and be well on their way towards gaining their degree and becoming fully qualified chartered surveyors or building engineers.

They will also be mentored by experienced professionals who will supervise their practical training.

Because of the way the academy works, they will earn while they learn and qualify with no student debt. Starting salaries for 18-year-old school and college leavers entering the academy range from £19,500 to £23,500 a year, depending on the location. More experienced career changers start on higher salaries.

All trainees are provided with personal protective equipment, IT equipment and software, as well as professional membership of the Chartered Institute of Building, Chartered Institution of Building Engineers and RICS, joining as student members for all three institutions.

This approach means that we can bring people into the sector who would not usually have the opportunity, with the cost of training often cited as a barrier, particularly when it comes to bringing in candidates from more diverse backgrounds.

This included working with specialist recruitment experts, directly with colleges and sixth forms, and reaching out to networks such as the Career Transition Partnership, which helps ex-armed forces personnel to find careers.

Diverse cohort bodes well for future

The cohort of recruits from 2022 will be fully qualified in early 2026. Of the successful candidates in 2022, 20% were school leavers, 30% came from other careers, including the armed forces, and 50% came from other construction backgrounds such as building trades.

Most candidates were under 24 years old. About half were from non-white backgrounds, and 29% were female.

In all my years in the profession, this is one of the most oversubscribed careers initiatives that I have ever seen – and it just goes to show that people are out there who want to work in the sector.

The volume of applications means that we must be doing something right; but the hard work does not stop there.

We have been working with recruiter Opus People Solutions to promote the academy on specialist diversity job sites and inclusive employment groups, to keep pushing opportunities for new people to come and work in this sector.

My hope is that we will see a better, more diverse construction industry, with building control at the forefront.

'In all my years in the profession, this is one of the most oversubscribed careers initiatives that I have ever seen'

RICS' view

It is good to see initiatives such as this to attract a diverse pool of future professionals into a sector that offers so much variety in terms of types of building.

 

Lorna Stimpson is chief executive officer at LABC
Contact Lorna: Email

Related competencies include: Building control inspections, Communication and negotiation, Ethics, Rules of Conduct and professionalism

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