Meet the new wave of building inspectors

The new system for registering building-control inspectors comes into force in April. Earlier this month, CN revealed worries that there will not be enough qualified staff to deal with applications.

Today, CN talks to two apprentices and an experienced inspector about how they’re preparing for the change.


Ezra McKenzie, apprentice, Buckinghamshire Council

Having originally wanted to enter the police force, Ezra McKenzie ended up taking a psychology degree and working as a therapist in the NHS. However, while there were many aspects of the job that he enjoyed, he soon realised that it wasn’t the career he wanted.

After a while, McKenzie found himself working in construction recruitment and realised that most people he spoke to on a day-to-day basis loved their jobs. He was interested, started looking into the industry and stumbled on Local Authority Building Control’s (LABC’s) pilot programme to bring new trainees into the industry.

“I didn’t know anything about [building control], but as I was reading about it, it just started to tick off all of the aspects that I had liked in different job roles,” says McKenzie. “You go out on site; you can work from home or you can work in the office; you work as part of a team but you’re also working independently. And because it’s an apprenticeship, not only are there career prospects, it’s also got that mentorship aspect.”

McKenzie has completed his first year of the LABC programme and is working for Buckinghamshire Council. It’s safe to say he feels he made a good decision. “I’m with the council, shadowing them and working with them, but I’m also getting the support from LABC’s staff,” he says. “I’ve had a lot of encouragement and a lot of input. I’m really enjoying it – it seems perfect for me.”

Dean Pickles, team leader, Calderdale Council

Dean Pickles

With years of experience as a practising building inspector, Dean Pickles is in two minds about the new qualifications regime. On the one hand, he believes in promoting safety; on the other, he’s not convinced about the way the regime is being assessed.

“I suppose I’m torn in a way,” says Pickles. “I understand what they’re trying to do, but I think it’s just the way in which it has been brought in that I think is frustrating. [For] most of us, I think [it’s a case of] you’ve gone into building control because you’re not that academic; you’re not really used to doing tests and exams.”

Nevertheless, Pickles decided to engage with the programme to carry on working in an area he clearly loves. It has its challenges, though. “For me, it’s about how you write stuff in a way that [the examiners can] get the things they want from it, like my management skills and things like that.

“It’s hard for me to write in such a manner that I’m getting across… things like dealing with the regulations or interpreting the regulations.”

Not everyone is willing to put themselves through the hassle and Pickles says he is concerned that the sector will have lost a lot of talent by April: “I was talking to a colleague [from another authority] and he said that they have three people in their late 50s, and all of them are going.”

Amy Gittins, apprentice, Gateshead Council

Amy Gittens

Amy Gittins originally wanted to be an architect but after two years of study at Northumbria University she decided that the profession wasn’t for her.

“I just wasn’t enjoying it at all,” she recalls. “I wanted to move on into building surveying but I didn’t really know what building control was. And then I was just looking at different apprenticeships and the LABC one came up.”

Gittins soon realised that building control was something she could get her teeth into. “It sounds really boring, but I really like the legislation,” she says.

“We had one module at uni that was about applying the legislation and the regulations to different projects, and I loved doing that. So, when I knew that’s what building control was like, I knew I would really enjoy it because I enjoy problem solving and helping people fix the issues with their projects.”

Gittins applied to the LABC programme and has completed her first year working with Gateshead Council, where she says she is learning a lot and thoroughly enjoying herself. “I also like the way it is structured and the fact that it’s so varied,” she says.

“I’ve had jobs where I’ve been at a desk all day and it just doesn’t work for me at all. I like to be out and about, talking to different people and helping them.”

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