Until the middle of the last century, the established route to a career in the construction industry was, invariably, to be taken on as an apprentice. The next few years would be spent working with experienced tradesmen, honing skills under the watchful eye of a mentor until the trainee was considered competent. This did not always result in much innovation but did turn out skilled people who knew and understood the technical aspects of the job.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the number of apprentices reduced dramatically as technical colleges, universities and vocational training opportunities emerged and became the accepted way to bring new entrants into the building industry. While this resulted in an increased level of academic understanding, some argued that the practical skills of those coming into such professions reduced.
As service expectations grow and commercial pressures and technological advances have swept through the building industry, margins for error and the implication of defects have also increased. In addition to this, the need to meet the requirements of ever changing health and safety and financial legislations in a volatile marketplace, and the need for highly developed practical and academic skills within every well run company becomes obvious.
What now seems apparent, is a huge variation in the talents, skills, expertise and competence across companies operating in the domestic property repair sector. For those who know and understand this, sorting the good companies from the bad can be challenge. How then can the average homeowner, landlord or developer distinguish the contractor who can, from the chancer who thinks they can?
Trade Associations have been a feature of industry in the UK for centuries, having developed from trade guilds that dominated a great many professions from the middle ages. These guilds performed a variety of important functions in the economy; they set and maintained standards for the quality of goods and trading practices, they worked to maintain stable prices for their goods and they sought to influence legislators to further the interests of the guild members. Historically, they also had a tendency to fix prices and form monopolies. The expectations and operation of these industry collectives may have changed but the basic goals of setting standards and representing the interests of members have not.
Working to promote competence
In order to ensure that consumers who look to the Association to provide an assurance are not disappointed or mislead, the modern trade association must endeavour to demonstrate that its members are able to operate to the highest possible standards. This is done by setting entry requirements that are robust and policed effectively. They must also keep members updated on any relevant or topical issues and offer training and education to ensure that the standards of work and customer service are maintained.
The Property Care Association (PCA) works tirelessly to ensure that its members have the opportunity to refresh their skills which, in turn, allows them to develop their ability to deliver good service.
At the forefront of its highly regarded training programme, are the PCA’s intense three-day flagship courses; the Surveyors Training Course (for specialist surveyors dealing with dampness and timber decay in buildings) and the Structural Waterproofing Course (for those specialising in all aspects of underground waterproofing). Candidates can then choose to attain industry qualifications in these disciplines; the Certificated Surveyor in Remedial Treatment (CSRT) is awarded to successful preservation surveyors and the Certificated Surveyor in Structural Waterproofing (CSSW) to students that successfully pass the waterproofing examinations.
In recent months, the PCA has also successfully launched its own Continuous Professional Development (CPD) scheme. This not only provides an opportunity for surveyors to demonstrate their commitment to learning but also provides evidence in pursuit of innovation and new ideas.
Following a number of successful bespoke one-day training events (including a seminar on mould and its toxicity, an introduction to Thermal Imaging and an introduction to Social Media) additional training events are being planned by the Association for the coming year. These include a refresher day for waterproofing surveyors (to cover recent revisions to BS 8102), guidance for those dealing with Japanese knotweed and basic asbestos awareness training.
One of the current objectives of the Property Care Association is to increase the awareness of the causes and implications of dampness and principle condensation and atmospheric moisture management in buildings. This initiative follows a significant increase in the number of enquiries received from social housing providers, as condensation related problems become more prevalent.
To support this, the PCA can deliver CPD presentations and short seminars, as well as Dampness and Condensation training, around the country. This helps practitioners to improve their basic understanding of the problem, enables them speak to their tenants confidently, understand the advice they may be given by contractors and hopefully enable them to recognise the difference between the qualified, professional specialist above the rogue traders who are all too common.
With the demise of many apprentice schemes and the lack of structured specialist training offered by construction colleges, it becomes clear that there is a gap. It is the view of the PCA, that Trade Bodies can help fill that void. Although it may not always be easy or profitable for Trade Associations to provide training and certification, if demand exists for quality instruction it seems sensible that it is delivered by an organisation committed to the industry it is required to serve. Trade Associations can place themselves in a perfect position to provide training to its members and the clients they serve.
Being recognised as the provider of high quality training does not only benefit the wider industry and the members that support the Association, but will also help establish it as a centre of knowledge and understanding that consumers and specifiers can turn and refer to.
It is the view of the Property Care Association that training and certification is at the heart of what it offers to its members and to others looking for guidance. We believe that it is right to expect the Trade Associations to be the hub of knowledge, to be in a position to offer technical advice and to advocate and promote best practice through training.
For further information about training, certification and technical guidance please contact the Property Care Association at www.property-care.org