Home News Fire chiefs raise alarm about industry’s skills gap

London Fire Brigade chiefs have lambasted a “general lack of competence” among building designers and construction companies in the wake of the Grenfell fire and have demanded formal qualifications and accreditation for anyone installing “life-saving systems like smoke ventilation”.

“There will be an increase in serious building fires unless the construction industry starts to take fire safety more seriously,” said an LFB submission to Dame Judith Hackitt’s independent review into building regulation and fire safety.

“The responsibility for ensuring buildings are constructed with proper fire safety measures sits with the construction industry and yet a general lack of competence means that dangerous decisions are being made about buildings’ design or construction.”

Fire officers reported regularly noting “significant construction defects” such as flawed compartmentation between flats, which can allow fire and smoke to spread throughout buildings. They also saw “critical fire safety systems”, such as mechanical smoke ventilation, that were either not installed as per the original design, poorly designed, or simply not working.

This serious attack on the industry’s competence levels came just hours before an announcement from the new slimmed down CITB, that it was ceasing to provide training, which raised questions about the level of resource now available to employers in construction-related fields.

Tony Howard, training director at the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA), said “As the fire officers have spotted, our skills gap has reached a critical point despite the fact that there are thousands of people keen to take up targeted apprenticeships and thousands of SMEs that want to take on an apprentice.

“The Education Skills Funding Agency asked training providers to submit bids demonstrating levels of demand back in the summer, but we still haven’t seen the money reach those new providers and we still haven’t seen them stop sending money to the people pumping out the wrong skills.”

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