Investing in people to create safe and sustainable buildings

Competency has always been important in the construction industry and in this new article, our colleague Steven Ferreira – who along with colleagues James Daniels and Ahmed Maani recently completed his Chartership – talks about the importance of professional qualifications, and the mechanisms in place at OFR as we support colleagues through their academic endeavours.

At OFR, we are passionate about pioneering new standards for fire engineers, ensuring that we move the sector towards a more accountable and professional future. 

While traditional accreditations have been prevalent in certain areas of our industry – think architecture or legal professions – our mission is to spearhead a transformative change that will bring accountability and professionalism to the forefront of fire engineering itself. It’s long been common practice for fire engineers to bolster their professional knowledge through CPD, but the industry is changing, and we want to lead that safer and sustainable future.

In recent years, we’ve seen moves in the right direction; the 2022 Building Safety Act brought an overhaul of regulations intended to create lasting change and give developers clear directions on how residential buildings should be constructed. But there is still room for improvement, and we think the answer lies in investing in people – encouraging our OFR colleagues to formalise their career through Chartership, upholding standards and ensuring that buildings continue to be created safely.

Right now, anyone in our team with five years’ experience or more can take their steps to Chartership. I know from experience how supportive OFR is in this process, funding the application and offering each colleague two days paid leave to allow time to focus to see it through. Having just completed mine I can’t stress how valuable this is; Chartership is a challenging process of chronicling your work across six chapters, but there are huge rewards from the time and effort that’s put in.

I’m one of three colleagues to have just gone through the process and it’s better for OFR as a business, with 20 of our team now Chartered. It means that we have a more robust offering, elevating the standing of our business and our people in a sector that is increasingly going to look for accountability. OFR’s willingness to support colleagues and give my cohort of applicants the breathing space we needed to complete ours was welcome, and evidence of our company’s ability to take a long-term view.

It’s imperative for a consultancy like ours to make this move. I think we can accept an inevitability of Charterships becoming increasingly important, and OFR is ahead of the curve in prioritising it in its workforce. I think we’ll start to see the advent of change in two to three years’ time, when those not opting to apply for Chartership will find themselves limited in their careers and the projects they can undertake. Clients and local authorities will I imagine make more stipulations around it. Even for us from an administration point of view, it means there are more OFR colleagues who can sign work off too, which ultimately gives clients a better service. 

I’m proud to be Chartered and hope that others will follow as we continue to mature as an industry, raising standards for those who create buildings, while also exceeding the expectations of those who live and work in them.  

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