InSite | Interview with Natalia Thomas Alvarez

Technical Competency | Interview with Natalia Thomas Alvarez

Published date: 24 April 2023

As we approach a new era that places a specific emphasis on competency, it is crucial that all who work in the construction industry are prepared.

This means making sure that those working in building control can demonstrate competency when undertaking their duties.

At Premier Guarantee, we are working hard to ensure our staff are ready.

Our new Technical Competency Manager, Natalia Thomas Alvarez, will be assisting our technical staff on their competency journey. Here, she tells us what this will entail.

Related articles:

What is Competency?
What is the Golden Thread?
Building Control - How could it look under new system?
InSite: Building Safety and Standards
Podcast | Building Control and the Road Ahead

Hi Natalia, you recently joined Premier Guarantee as Technical Competency Manager. What does this role entail? 


I’m really proud to be working with Premier Guarantee in this role.


It highlights the company’s commitment to the competency reform. Having this role in place not only signifies the level of resources being given to the competency plan but shows how seriously this is being taken.


A lot of resources and learning is being given to surveyors to ensure that they have the best opportunity to demonstrate their competency but that they also can give comfort to clients that know we are operating at a high standard.


My role will initially involve creating a technical competency plan and strategy to ensure all our staff who work on building control can be registered with the BSR (Building Safety Regulator).



Competency is a hugely important word in our industry at the moment. How much does the drive towards competency inform your work day-to-day?


Every day. My work is driven by competency. Competency isn’t a tick box exercise and how you demonstrate it is complex. I’m looking holistically at what brings competency together, such as knowledge, experience, skills, attitude, qualifications and how we can bring that together in a tangible format.


 I’m analysing where there are potential knowledge gaps and how we fill those.


Furthermore, we also need a competency progression plan and how competency needs to develop overtime. It will be constantly breeding knowledge and evolving.


Can you tell us a bit about your background?  


I initially worked in the construction industry as an oak framer, which I loved! I knew I loved construction then but was keen to learn more about the process from start to finish.


I then worked as a trainee building control surveyor for my local authority. I absolutely loved it - going out and about on building sites, talking to people and learning! I was lucky enough to progress through the department until I was department manager. Interestingly as the manager of the department I spent a lot of time focused on the council’s response to our involvement in the Grenfell Inquiry, which was challenging but an experience.


I enjoyed managing the team, I had 13 surveyors. From the outset of the Hackitt review I ensured all the staff gained professional membership, and provided an array of learning and CPD for clients.


I then moved to Socotec building control, working on some of their major projects, including HRBs, new schools, offices etc. Learning is something I’m passionate about. I’ve done a
master’s, a graduate diploma, degree and have published a research article in the Journal for Automation for Construction. I’m hoping I can share some of my passion and enthusiasm with the team.



The role ‘Registered Building Inspector’ is a relatively new one for the industry. Can you give us a bit of background on what a Registered Building Inspector will be? 


A registered building inspector will be what we know now as a building control officer or inspector.


The only notable difference is that they will need to be registered to carry out restricted activities, i.e. plan checking or site inspection.


The registration will give inspectors a driving license-type permit which will detail what work they have been assessed to be able to carry out. The permit or license will give reassurance within the industry and to homeowners that buildings are being checked by someone who is competent to do so.


Checking everyone’s competency is a big reform but something we should embrace as it will demonstrate the professionalism within the sector and our technical capability. 



How are Premier Guarantee ensuring their technical staff attain their RBI status? 


Premier Guarantee are extremely serious about training and learning, which is what attracted me to work with the company. The technical training and learning development teams are second to none!


We are providing the surveyors with an array of learning, support - and we are pulling together their knowledge, experience and qualifications to create a surveyor portfolio which will demonstrate each surveyors ability and competency.



What advice would you give technical professionals in our industry in terms of their approach to the changes ahead?

Over the last couple of months I’ve spoken to a lot of people about competency and how they feel about it and I appreciate the apprehension and understand it.

I would give the following advice:

‘Be prepared’ this reform is coming and is needed. Don’t sit back and wait for change to happen, be the change! Start reflecting on your work, look for potential gaps in knowledge, areas of training etc, and be proactive.

My second piece of advice is to embrace it. Whenever we need to take on a new challenge or new learning you can approach it with an open mind set or closed. The latter won’t make the process any better, whereas if you approach this with an open mind set you’ll be able to see the benefits in new learning, want to learn more, share knowledge and your enthusiasm will increase. In essence: be positive!



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Every care was taken to ensure the information in this article was correct at the time of publication (March 2023). Guidance provided does not replace the reader’s professional judgement and any construction project should comply with the relevant Building Regulations or applicable technical standards. For the most up to date Premier Guarantee technical guidance please refer to your Risk Management Surveyor and the latest version of the Premier Guarantee Technical Manual.
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