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Levack takes up the challenge at Scottish Building

NEWS - 60 second interview

Michael Levack was appointed chief executive of construction trade body Scot t ish Building at the beginning of the month.

Joanna Booth repor ts How long have you been in the industry?

All my working life, over 20 years. I started out as a quantity surveyor with Balfour Beatty. My last post was with Mansell, where I spent 10 years as regional managing director. I've been actively involved in Scottish Building for the past eight years. I'm a past president and when the chief executive position came up I threw my hat in the ring.

What is you r main focus?

We must ensure that we retain and increase our membership.

We have nearly 800 members, which is a solid base and a good mandate to represent contractors. I think the issue nowadays is persuading members of the relevance of a trade association. Some are not fully aware of all the issues going on behind the scenes in the industry. We must communicate effectively. There's a danger of bombarding people with hard copy and emails. We want to give information in bite-size chunks.

Are you concerned by the CIS scheme?

From everything I hear it doesn't sound like it will all be in place fully by next April. It's also concerning that the major IT platform is lagging behind.

When significant IT developments are pushed through ineffectively there is chaos. I think the greatest danger is lack of awareness. If you did a straw poll of our members I wouldn't be surpr ised if many said 'What CIS changes?'

How are workloads in Scotland at the moment?

Very buoyant, and will remain so for at least the next 18 months. My worry is the workload is so high that some parts of the industry won't be able to keep up with the sheer volume.

And being overstretched isn't good for the industry.

Is the skills crisis as acute in Scotland?

No. There is greater direct employment, which helps with consistency of labour. But there are shortages. Last year we registered 2,300 apprentices in Scotland, which isn't bad. But over 4,000 people passed the CITB basic skills test, and we want to be in a position to offer all of those people jobs. Smaller companies find it difficult to have the confidence of workload to take on an apprentice ? greater accuracy and transparency in client spending would help.

Are you worried that the TrustMa rk ant i-cowboy scheme will clash with the Scottish Construction Licensing Executive?

Yes. We must avoid duplication. It's frustrating for our members who have joined up to CLE. Millions of pounds have been poured into the failed Quality Mark and the TrustMa rk schemes. We have seen less than £100,000 over two years. Because it splits between a construction and a consumer issue it sits between being devolved or retained by Westminster. It becomes a political football no one wants to pay for. I'd tell our members to stick to CLE. We don't want to confuse the public.