Tendy Lindsay became Chair of CTSI last month, having spent a career in consumer protection. During her tenure, she wants to encourage people from different walks of life to become part of the Trading Standards family. “The first important thing is to be much more inclusive, and for our membership to be representative of the communities we serve,” she explains. “This includes aligning with apprenticeships and encouraging people from different backgrounds to enter the profession. We want to have different routes into Trading Standards.
“We also have an aging profession; again, in terms of diversity, we need to attract more young people and become much more attractive to people from different communities.
“Also we need to be listening as a profession and promoting respect in our culture. We need to have more respect for one another in some of our meetings, for example; we’ve tried to make a positive change, but we are still sometimes lacking in that.”
One of the major challenges in boosting the profile of Regulatory Compliance Officer (RCO) apprenticeships is retooling the CTSI Professional Competency Framework (CPCF) to make it more compatible. “The apprenticeship wasn’t really created alongside our qualification,” says Lindsay. “We’re trying to align the qualification so when you do finish an apprenticeship you’ve completed part of your qualification for Trading Standards.
“We’ve got people and organisations looking to see how we can align that because right now, it doesn’t align at all. It doesn’t make any sense if you’ve done an apprenticeship that you’ve still got to come back and start doing the qualification in Trading Standards. Apprenticeships are more likely to attract different people from diverse communities I think, and it becomes a much more inclusive operation because of that. At the moment you’ve got to have a degree.
“We need to deliver a tangible qualification that aligns with the apprenticeship scheme and is also sustainable and achievable. And we have to work with partners like universities that can help us deliver on this.”
The time and cost involved in doing a degree, before going on to complete a CPCF, may exclude a lot of people, particularly those from poorer backgrounds, Lindsay points out. “Most people want to go to work as quickly as possible so they can contribute towards their family; in some communities, you have to help out your families, not just yourself. You’ve got to make a financial contribution, and that can be difficult. Degrees are expensive, as we know, and not every parent wants their children to go through that route because of the fear of having to then pay back that money in the future.
“Hopefully with apprenticeships, many different types of people will be able to come on board, whether that means different social class or ethnic background. It’s about having different entry routes into Trading Standards.”
Apprenticeships are just one piece of the puzzle though, Lindsay believes. “We need to look at what else can we do differently to attract people. We’re training Trading Standards managers to be aware of things like unconscious bias in decision-making when they’re recruiting. And that applies to CTSI as well; people may not realise they have their own biases in terms of recruitment. If you have a recruitment panel that’s just all white men, for example, you’re more likely to employ a white man. Since we set up the Race & Equalities Working Group, the CTSI board has started to look a bit more diverse.
“I think by learning and educating ourselves, all of us get to learn more about each other and really see that we don’t have that many differences; we just create these differences in our heads that we use against each other. And sometimes even if we have differences, we should embrace them and celebrate them.”
How does that extend to people’s practical concerns, when it comes to things like maternity leave? “There are some things the CTSI Council has done already,” Lindsay says. “For example, if a CTSI member is on maternity leave, she only pays half the membership fee. We have also made it so that you don’t need to have two people to sign your membership. These measures were brought in to make the membership much more inclusive.
“To encourage younger members, we now have voting rights for everyone, and membership is free for students up until they become qualified. In terms of getting more members, people can become affiliate members, as long as they’re working within consumer protection and not just Trading Standards.”
Lindsay believes another vital element to strengthening the Trading Standards profession is working alongside other entities like Citizens Advice or the FSA, for example, to harness their expertise. “The other part of my time as Chair will be about ‘stronger together’,” she says. “We’re working with other key partners and policymakers and also aligning how we work across all four nations and the branches. Partnership working is so important; a lot of people just work within their own team and don’t share information across their own councils, let alone with other agencies. If we all worked together in partnership, we could achieve far more. I know that because I’ve lived it for the past 20-odd years.
“The other thing is about promoting the value of our work to government. That’s the third key thing I’d like to do. With other stakeholders, through evidence and the media, we need to promote the value of Trading Standards.”
Ant that’s particularly important, says Lindsay, against the backdrop of the cost-of-living crisis and the prospect of further cuts. “Whenever there’s a reduction in people’s income, it’s an opportunity for criminality,” she says. “There’s going to be a lot of dodgy food, rogue traders knocking on doors, and problems with accommodation and housing. Right now, the situation is terrible.”