CIOB chief executive Chris Blythe has set out far-reaching plans to modernise the professional body, including changes to membership qualifications. Blythe told CM the changes are essential if the CIOB is to survive: “The CIOB needs to re-engage with employers and adapt to the increasingly global needs of the industry.”
The blueprint is part of the newly unveiled Strategic Plan, which sets out how the Institute should evolve over the next 10 years. “The world is changing fast and professional bodies have to change with it. We don’t want to alienate members of 40 to 50 years, but at the same time we have to adapt and move forward,” says Blythe.
He adds: “An organisation that is controlled by its members is sometimes in danger of going at the pace of the slowest and that is something we have to address. We don’t have the luxury of going at the slowest pace, and we don’t have the luxury of keeping the organisation as it was in the eighties or nineties — it needs to be relevant to 2020, 2030 and 2040.”
The principal thrust of the changes will centre on greater collaboration with employers and developing what Blythe calls “more relevant” qualifications. This would involve introducing a range of qualifications to recognise specialist roles.
“The current MCIOB qualification is a bit all or nothing: you get the full qualification or nothing at all,” explains Blythe. Routes to full membership are already different for people with different academic qualifications and experience, but can involve sitting lengthy exams for those without the relevant degree.
“We’re looking at developing qualifications that will enable people to get recognition to what they are doing in the workplace,” he says. “It might be a diploma or certificate in a particular skill, such as planning and scheduling. The qualification won’t give you chartered status, but it could be used as part of that.”
Blythe adds that the new qualifications would form modules that could enable people to build up a range of credits that would accumulate towards gaining a more formal qualification.
CIOB chief executive Chris Blythe
Such a radical overhaul is sure to ignite fears among CIOB members that the institute is “dumbing down” and diluting long-established standards, a charge Blythe dismisses. “It doesn’t mean we’re lowering standards. The changes are about satisfying the needs of employers and people and the different demands they face over their working life,” he says.
He adds: “We can’t be too precious about what exactly chartered means. Too much of the view on standards is about the process and not what people can do at the end of the process. People wrongly assume if a process is difficult it must be of a high standard and benefit to the industry. For years the process has been seen as part of the test and frankly it shouldn’t be.”
The overhaul is partly the result of discussions with large contractors that want staff to have greater expertise in areas such as supply chain integration, BIM, off-site construction and sustainability. But more controversially, Blythe also wants to see formal credit given to some development courses carried out within individual companies.
Changes also reflect the fact that the type of work carried out by members is changing. Whereas 20 years ago the bulk of the members would have worked in contracting now the range is much broader. Membership breaks down as 40% working for contractor bodies; 25% consulting; 20 client or associated organisations like local authority Building Control; 5% academia with the rest retired or working outside the industry.
Speaking last month new CIOB President Alan Crane said his primary focus was to involve employers more with the work of the Institute. He said: “We want to give employers a bigger say in the curriculum. In fact, we want to give them the biggest say they have ever had.
Blythe adds: “Sometimes the relationship between professional bodies and academia can be just too cosy.”
Young professionals give their views on what the new President should do to improve the CIOB, Vox pop: http://construction-manager.co.uk/news/editorial-january-2012/