Interesting …I thinkwe in Ontario have the same problem . I wonder if Bill 59 on home Inspection passes .
Where they will get inspectors to police the industry .
The Ontario Governmentis extremely short on funds now
[FONT=Times New Roman]TheBuilding Code Profession Is Dying Out, and That’s a Problem[/FONT]
Many of theofficials who check construction plans and inspect buildings for safety are onthe cusp of retirement—and they’re not being replaced.
Workersbuilding a new house in Arvada, Colorado. (RickWilking/Reuters)](http://pictures.reuters.com/archive/USA-HOUSING-LABOR-TM3EC951JN401.html)
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Atprofessional events, George Williams is used to being surrounded by people manydecades his senior. The Salt Lake City-area building inspector is 34, whichmakes him a young gun in an aging workforce.
Hisrole as the lone youth among venerable peers began when he first startedattending professional networking and training events in 2010. Williams wouldwalk into a continuing education course or an event held by the local chapterof the International Code Council (ICC) and he’d be one of the few peoplewithout gray hair…
[FONT=Times New Roman]What’s next in workforce development](http://www.citylab.com/special-report/city-makers-getting-to-work/)[/FONT]
“Withoutfail, I was the youngest person in the room, every single time,” says Williams.“Not slightly younger, but dramatically younger than nearly everyone else.”
Inearly 2014, his curiosity piqued, Williams asked the Utah Division ofOccupational and Professional Licensing if he could view their records on thedemographics of the state’s building code professionals. The departmentwouldn’t give him names or addresses, but it emailed him a spreadsheet with theages of every building inspector in the state.
[FONT=Times New Roman]Acrisis in numbers[/FONT]
Uponcrunching the numbers, Williams found a looming crisis.It turns out that 60 percent of the statewide industry is close to retirement.And Utah isn’t an outlier, as he found a few months later when the ICC and theNational Institute of Building Sciences released a report withdisturbingly similar findings. “It comes as little surprise that the currentworkforce is aging and making plans for retirement,” the authors write. “However,the actual numbers are a bit alarming.”
That’sputting it mildly. Eighty-five percent of the respondents to ICC’s survey wereover the age of 45. Only three percent were under 35. Most of them were lookingto get out of the game in the near future: Eighty percent planned to retirewithin 15 years, and a full 30 percent within five.
Buildingcode officials can serve as managers, plan reviewers (checking constructionplans to make sure they’re up to par), or inspectors—or they can wear two orthree of those hats at once. Inspectors are tasked with ensuring that newbuildings (and renovations of old ones) have been built safely and responsibly.They carefully check that everything is braced and wired and insulated to meetthe requirements of the local codes.
Inspectionsprotect against developers and landlords who endanger people by trying to buildor repair a property on the cheap, or in ignorance of safety standards. Withoutthem, the result could be a building collapse or faulty wiring that causes afire. The Ghost Ship tragedy inOakland last year underscored the importance of codes andinspections.
Notonly does building inspection serve a clear societal purpose, it’s the type ofmiddle-class job that is in increasingly short supply. Only a high schooldiploma is needed for an entry-level position as a code official, and themedian income is about $57,000 per year, according to the Bureau of LaborStatistics. The ICC survey found that the median salary range was between$50,000 and $75,000, with a fifth of respondents earning up to $100,000. Jobsecurity, pay, and benefits were the top reasons respondents gave for joiningthe ranks.
Constructionrates are healthy—there is plenty of need for building inspectors’ services.And theirs aren’t skills that can be easily automated. So why are their ranksdwindling?
[FONT=Times New Roman]Alow-profile job with less stability[/FONT]
Williams’sexplanation for his industry’s grim state is multifaceted. For one thing, itsimply isn’t a job that very many people know exists. The profession isrelatively small, with the BLS counting 101,200 “construction andbuilding inspectors” in 2014.
Italso isn’t the most glamorous field of all time. “There aren’t any grade-schoolchildren right now who are drawing pictures or writing papers about becoming abuilding inspector,” Williams says. “I think this profession finds you ratherthan you finding it.”
George Williams in the field (Courtesy ofGeorge Williams)
Likemany of his compatriots, Williams found the job through the building trades.Historically, people have gravitated from the trades to codes work because it’ssteadier than construction, which is more vulnerable to the boom and bust ofthe real estate cycle.
Thecareer wasn’t one Williams intended to pursue at first. He started attendingcommunity college for construction management. When he got a job with a localengineering firm, they asked him to get further training so he could dobuilding inspections for them. It took him two more years to get fullycertified, but even then, it didn’t seem like a long-term career.
“Itthought it would just be a chapter,” says Williams. “But in 2008 the economywas down, construction was down. The thought of entering a construction companyas the low man on the totem pole was not very appealing. The stability didbecome appealing at that point.”
Mostcode official positions are in state and local government. Williams is unusual,in that he worked first for an engineering firm and now for a building codeconsulting firm. By his estimate, 90 percent of people in the industry areemployed in the public sector; both of his employers have received much oftheir work from government entities.
Theindustry is having a hard time attracting new recruits in part because thestability that attracted Williams is no longer the norm. The public sector tooka beating after the Great Recession, with the number of government employeesplummeting after the downturn and taking far longer to recover thanprivate-sector employment did. Pay for those who remained actually fell. The benefits that compensate public workers for lower pay arecoming under threat, too.
The industry is having a hard time attracting new recruits in partbecause the stability that attracted Williams is no longer the norm.
“Duringthe downturn, cities were laying off some of their building department staffwho had been there for 15 or 20 years,” says Williams. “That historical sensethat working for the local government is an incredibly secure job went out thewindow. The sense of permanence is no longer there. That’s been detrimental tothose switching careers [from the private sector].”
[FONT=Times New Roman]Counteringthe retirement wave[/FONT]
TheICC is trying to stave off an inspector shortage. It sponsors a program intechnical high schools that teaches students in major construction trades—likeelectrical, plumbing, and mechanical—how to navigate the code. The program “incorporatesa hands-on component to allow students … to directly apply what they learn inthe code book to an actual construction project,” the ICC’s vice president ofmembership, Ron Piester, writes in an email.The idea is to both improvecode compliance and make the pipeline from the trades to codes roles moreexplicit. The organization has also launched an initiative to improverecruitment and formed an emerging leaders council.
InUtah, the regional manager of Williams’ company reached out to the departmentof licensing and proposed an educational program to train more inspectors. Thestate already uses 1 percent of building permit fees to pay for continuingeducation for contractors and inspectors. Williams and his colleagues got$30,000 of it. They used that slim outlay to develop a test-prep series with 41two-hour sessions spread over two years. So far, 36 people have been licensedthrough the program. (Inspectors are certified by the ICC and licensed by theirstate.)
Theydidn’t stop there. This spring, Williams’s company will launch an onlineBuilding Code Academy, which will offer test prep and training videos at $200 acourse. The company has hired four inspectors under the age of 35 in Utah, andmore in California.
Still,Williams is worried for the future of his industry. He believes that withoutreturning to an employment paradigm closer to the pre-recession norm, theretirement cliff will continue to loom. It used to be that jurisdictions wouldhire a junior inspector to train under a senior inspector, whom they wouldeventually replace. Now that they want to do more with less, those juniorinspectors aren’t getting hired.
“Thecities are trying to have smaller building departments and trying to accomplishmore work with less people,” Williams says. “As a result of that, the citiesaren’t willing to invest in an individual who does not have the training andexperience. That’s where this gap has grown.”