BUILT ENVIRONMENT JOURNAL

Youth recruitment barriers

Research for the Scottish governments building standards division has identified barriers to recruiting more young people into the profession – and strategies for engaging them

Author: Alan Rodden

14 February 2020

The Year of Young People in Scotland in 2018 was a Scottish government initiative, two of its key themes being education and celebrating young peoples contribution to the nations economy. These themes prompted the government's building standards division to commission research from Pye Tait Consulting on attracting more young people into the profession.

Scottish local authorities perform building standards services in their role as verifiers. As part of this, they employ staff for a variety of rewarding jobs, ensuring the health, safety, welfare and convenience of people in and around buildings. Building standards professionals independently check that properties comply with the Building Regulations, and support any necessary enforcement action by the local authority. Checks are carried out for any building needing a warrant, from pre-application discussion stage throughout the construction phase to completion.

But like many sectors, building standards faces difficulties attracting young people into the profession. Low levels of awareness of the kinds of job available have hampered its ability to appeal to them and recruit younger staff. Lack of investment over time has also affected talent development and succession planning, leading to a concentration of knowledge and skills in older staff who are likely to leave the service over the next five to ten years. But it is important that this depth of knowledge is maintained and passed on to younger cohorts.

Pye Tait Consulting therefore talked to employers, industry bodies and other stakeholders at a round-table event, and conducted a survey that heard from 478 young people aged 1626 across Scotland. Careers advisers were also surveyed and stakeholders interviewed in some depth.

Findings from the round-table and the survey highlighted issues such as the ageing workforce, the lack of clear career entry points or progression, and little awareness of the profession among young people. This low profile was partly due to an absence of relevant and engaging information about building standards roles on the career portals widely used by young people. Few respondents understood the qualifications required, education routes or access to apprenticeships that lead to building standards careers.

However, among the findings there were useful pointers on how to address these issues. Young people trust information channels such as Skills Development Scotland's myworldofwork.co.uk when choosing a career, and key people in their lives are the greatest influences when considering their next steps. Participants and respondents said they prefer to hear about careers through social media email and websites, and on open days. They also stressed the vital importance of career information being up to date, detailed and provided in person when possible. Young people also actively seek the advice of parents, family and friends in career choices, and prioritise salary and career prospects.

These insights have been used by the building standards division to develop a workforce strategy that includes providing improved information about the profession and promotional material about job roles. The strategy also highlights important intangible benefits of building standards roles, namely saving lives, helping society and building communities.

More emphasis is also being placed on the offer of a rewarding career path –ranging from junior and trainee roles up to senior surveyor or principal building standards officer. Progression is a major attraction, so these are important benefits that must be part of the message going out to young people.

The government's approach will maximise use of current networks and initiatives in the public and professional spheres, with Skills Development Scotland, career advisers, employers, teachers and lecturers all being influencers. As part of this work, an outreach programme to engage with young people is being developed using social media campaigns, email, posters and leaflets, as well as direct communication from professionals through open days or school and college visits.

Although the profession is relatively unknown to young people at present, the Scottish government envisages that its profile can be raised to attract a young enthusiastic and talented workforce in the coming years

Alan Rodden is procedures and verification team leader in the Scottish governments building standards division  alan.rodden@gov.scot

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