‘What I learned from CIOB’s PC competency scheme’

PC competency scheme
Dan Harmer is the first candidate to go through the CIOB PC competency scheme (Sky High Camera Ltd)

Tilbury Douglas project manager Dan Harmer is the first candidate to go through the CIOB Principal Contractor Competency Certification Scheme. He tells CM why he and his company signed up.

Why did you and Tilbury Douglas put yourself forward?

There has been a step change in the industry, more emphasis on competence and quality. I’m seeing that especially with fire safety – with fire cavity barriers, making sure you’ve got all the right testing certificates, having the right materials in the right place and installed by people who are approved to install them.

As a tier 1 contractor, we must make sure we select the right people. People outside the industry still have this attitude that construction is full of cowboy builders. But we don’t all deserve to be tarred with that brush. There are good people out there and they genuinely want to do the right thing. And this CIOB competency scheme will recognise that – it will certify those people who are doing the right thing.

Tell us how you were assessed

Firstly you are assessed on your competence to take the scheme. It is very much experience-led. I’ve gone through the higher-risk buildings category (category B) because I’ve worked on projects which fell under that category: high-rise residential buildings and the NEC Nightingale Hospital, a fast-paced project.

The assessment is in two sections: a written section and an interview.

One of the key things is understanding how the Building Safety Act impacts us. I had to write a piece on my understanding of the legal duties of a principal contractor and how I would execute them.

The interview was run by two industry peers who asked probing questions about my written submission. I did a presentation, with a series of photographs. One showed a toolbox talk I was giving to a site of 150 people, because I wanted to demonstrate my understanding of how important quality is.

I also included photos where I was overseeing high-risk activities, such as a series of crane lifts and a project where we had to tunnel under the Hagley Road in Birmingham. I had to explain what we were trying to do, why I selected those individuals, how I managed that whole process and what was the outcome.

What message would you give other project managers about the CIOB PC competency scheme?

The Building Safety Act 2022 explains the requirements for principal contractors and what this scheme does is give you the ability to demonstrate that you comply.

I think when you consider how health and safety attitudes have changed over the last two decades, we are going to see the same with competency. This is just the start of the curve. At the moment, it’s just people like myself and colleagues going forward for this scheme, but I think it will become a requirement for everybody working in that PC role and – as with health and safety – you will have a competence card.

It doesn’t take years to be certified. If you knuckle down, you can potentially get this sorted within two to three months. But you do need the experience to take the scheme in the first place.

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