TrustMark, the government endorsed quality mark for tradesmen, is looking to continue the progress it made in 2012, when its website racked up 3.9 million searches from homeowners looking for trustworthy local tradesmen.

Electricians experienced the largest rise in searches, benefitting from a 28 per cent rise in October compared with the same month last year. Following closely behind were searches for heating engineers, plumbers and glaziers, with many homeowners searching for tradesmen who could carry out urgent work on their properties given the poor weather conditions experienced across the UK.

All of the firms featured on the TrustMark site have had their technical skills independently checked during thorough onsite inspections, ensuring the high quality of the work on offer and the adherence to particular trading practices.

Stuart Carter, head of PR and marketing at TrustMark, said: “With the economy in its current state we are delighted to see such high numbers of viewings from homeowners searching for TrustMark tradesmen, particularly as it shows many still require a professional tradesman to do their work.

“TrustMark tradesmen’s searches have been increasing year on year and this considerable success has been a result of a number of marketing initiatives carried out during 2012 and working in partnership with key consumer organisations such as Citizens Advice, the Trading Standards Institute and National Home Improvement Council who are all signposting people to TrustMark.”          

The service, which has more than 23,000 licensed tradesmen on its database, is proving to be a big help to people looking for a good local firm who can do a great job at a reasonable price. TrustMark also has a simple complaints procedure which makes it easier to resolve any problems.

It will come as news to some of you that there is such a thing as a Considerate Contractors Scheme (CCS) in existence, which is due to publish its new code of practice in the new year, with the aim of making considerate contractors of us all.

The new regulations, which have been in development for the past three years, take the form of a five-point code. All CCS-registered sites and companies will be assessed against this code by scheme monitors, who will be charged with checking all registered sites and companies, as well as reporting and scoring the visit.

The new code, due to be implemented as of 1 January 2013, will replace the eight-point code which has remained largely unchanged for the past 15 years. However, with the expected standards having changed over the years, it is time raise the bar, with so many sites easily meeting the requirements of the code.

So, as of the new year, the five sections of the code will include:

•    Enhancing the appearance
•    Respecting the community
•    Protecting the environment
•    Securing safety
•    Caring for the workforce

To give contractors a thorough understanding of the new code, each section will be accompanied by an aspirational statement, along with four bullet points which list the areas the scheme considers within that section.

The latest incarnation of the Considerate Contractors Scheme is to introduce a scoring system, which scores each section out of a maximum 10 points. 5 points for each section signifies compliance, whilst a score of 10 signifies that registered sites or companies have introduced innovative practices or thinking that goes far beyond the expectations of the scheme, working to advance the standards by which the industry is judged.

Scheme chief executive Edward Hardy said: “After three years in development, the scheme is pleased to publish the new code and supporting documents. Working with a number of contractors and clients throughout the review process, the scheme is confident that the new code remains in keeping with the industry’s values, presenting an exciting challenge for registered sites and companies in raising the benchmark of considerate construction.”

The Green Deal has been launched by the government to help people heat and light their homes more efficiently and affordably. Britain has some of the oldest and most inefficient building stock in Europe and consumers pay a high price for running inefficient buildings. The innovative Green Deal financing mechanism allows householders to have energy efficiency improvements to their homes with little or no initial cash outlay and then to payback the cost of the measures over an extended period.

In the meantime, as well as enjoying improved comfort, householders will be able to reduce the impact of rising energy bills. The Green Deal has been designed to help finance the installation of a broad range of improvements from the insulation, glazing, microgeneration, lighting and heating sectors. The Green Deal’s ‘Golden Rule’ ensures that the savings associated with the measures must always match or exceed the installation costs.

Consumers will also receive advice about how they can save money by simple changes in behaviour. In short, you should save more than you spend. Interested householders will first receive a visit from an impartial, accredited Green Deal adviser, who will carry out a full survey of the home and a study of how the building is used. This information is used to produce a report which defines the measures recommended for each home. This report can be used to obtain quotations from as many Green Deal providers as desired. Once an acceptable quotation has been obtained and an agreement signed then an accredited Green Deal installer will carry out the work. The cost of the measures will be recovered by instalments applied to electricity bills for periods of up to 25 years.

Most of the 45 energy effi ciency improvements that qualify for Green Deal are well within the capability of a competent heating installer. With minimal additional training however, a further range of measures also becomes available. We are confident the majority of heating installers will be more than capable of implementing all such measures in order to take full advantage of the many new business opportunities that Green Deal will undoubtedly create.

Each Green Deal package of individual energy efficiency measures is carefully structured to ensure all measures are eligible for full or partial funding. Green Deal plans will be assembled in different ways depending on individual circumstances.

1. A very small number of Green Deal Plans will include measures that meet the Golden Rule & will receive 100% funding

2. Most arrangements will include a package of Green Deal measures that partially meet the Golden Rule but require additional funding from the improver

3. Green Deal measures for solid wall insulation (ie no cavity wall space) or difficult cavities will receive an ECO contribution to partially support the cost

4. Green Deal Plans for households in the Super Priority Group will receive 100% ECO funding under the Affordable Warmth Scheme.

Northern Ireland is setting the precedent for the rest of the UK to follow after new regulations introduced on 31 October made it a legal requirement for carbon monoxide (CO) alarms to be fitted in all homes where a new or replacement appliance, which is not used solely for cooking, is installed.

The Scottish government have been quick to follow suit and are currently consulting on the introduction of similar proposals, whilst the All-Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group (APPCOG) is creating as much noise as possible in a bid to convince the government in Westminster and the Welsh Assembly to revisit the outdated stance they have taken on the mandatory installation of CO alarms.

Currently homes in England and Wales are only legally required to fit carbon monoxide alarms if new or replacement appliances installed in their homes are powered by solid fuel, although industry figures do not think this is enough, and for good reason.

Recent research released by Energy UK shows there as many as 35 million people in the UK who are still at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning. Despite a good amount of publicity and work to increase awareness of the dangers of CO poisoning, many people still mistakenly believe their smoke alarm will detect the presence of carbon monoxide.

Despite this progress, some industry figures still believe the compulsory installation of carbon monoxide alarms is not enough, and the only way to remove the risk is to prevent CO from being produced, rather than merely detecting when it is. James Murray from the Gas Safe Register explains: “If we could ensure everyone has their safety appliances checked every year, more people would be safe from carbon monoxide. CO alarms are only a second line of defence, but are vital to alerting you of the gas’ presence.”

One thing is for sure: CO alarms alone are not the answer. As is all too often the case with smoke alarms, they are regularly installed and forgotten about, with homeowners believing themselves to be safe from fire thereafter, without conducting any maintenance checks to ensure batteries are live and sensors are still working.

Any progress on this issue is certainly welcomed, and for now, making the installation of carbon monoxide alarms compulsory in every UK home is certainly a good start. Watch this space...

A new strategy published by the Welsh government has been introduced to prompt contractors to take greater steps to increase the waste they recycle and reduce the amount sent to landfill.

The plan, which has been produced in tandem with Constructing Excellence in Wales, has a goal of reducing the amount of waste which ends up in landfill to close to zero by the end of 2025. The ultimate aim, by 2050, is to ensure 100 per cent of construction and demolition waste produced by the industry is recycled.

Currently the construction industry alone accounts for 14 per cent of Wales’ ecological footprint for waste, which environment minister John Griffiths believes needs to be reduced: “As well as being an integral contributor to the Welsh economy, the construction industry is a large consumer of natural resources, producing 12.2 million tonnes of waste each year in Wales alone.

"Taking action to reduce the environmental impact of the construction sector is critical as our current level of waste is totally unsustainable. We have an obligation to ensure we use our resources wisely.

“The ultimate aim is to turn high quality recycled waste into a valuable resource that does not cause environmental harm, rather than it ending up in landfill.”

If you’d like to take a look at the Welsh government’s strategy for yourself, then click here.

There are grounds for genuine optimism amongst British tradesmen, as the Japanese engineering giant Hitachi follows up its £700m acquisition of the Horizon nuclear project by expressing its long-term commitment to the UK infrastructure sector.

The construction project is to include the development of two or three 1300MW advanced boiling water reactor (ABWR) plants in two separate locations, Wylfa in Anglesey and Oldbury in Gloucestershire. It is estimated that each of these sites will support between 5,000 and 6,000 construction jobs, with the first of the units operational by 2025.

British businesses are also buoyed by the news, as, based on the experience gained during the development of four ABWR plants in Japan, 60 per cent of the project’s budget will be spent on materials, personnel and services from the local area.

Hitachi also intends to create a legacy of nuclear skills and training in the UK by working with local colleges and universities to introduce training programs and develop a permanent base of nuclear skills in the UK, leading to global demand for their skills.

The Hitachi president Hiroaki Nakanishi, said: “This is the start of a 100-year commitment to the UK and its vision to create a long-term, secure, low-carbon and affordable energy supply. We look forward to sharing Hitachi’s corporate vision and nuclear business with the management and employees of Horizon, working harmoniously with UK companies and stakeholders for the delivery of this vital part of the UK’s national infrastructure and the creation of a strong nuclear power company.

Energy minister John Hayes is hugely encouraged by this deal and the message that the rest of the world will receive, “that Britain’s economy is open and stable and committed to the development of new sources of nuclear energy.”

The project is to be supported by the Office for Nuclear Regulation and Environment Agency, who will work collaboratively with Hitachi to provide certainty that the reactor design will be fit for use in the UK. It is expected this will be a relatively straightforward process, given the approval the design of the reactor has already received from US nuclear authorities. 

The latest news hot off the press here at Access Training is the end of the level 3 inspection and testing qualification 2391 as we know it (with the exception of a few re-sit papers!). The qualification, aimed at electrical personnel who either carry out or supervise the testing and inspection of electrical installations, has been replaced by two separate qualifications, including:

2394 – Initial verification of electrical installations

2395 – Periodic inspection and testing of electrical installations

From information we have received from the Joint industry Board (JIB), if an electrician wants to earn their JIB ‘Gold Card’, they will be required to pass BOTH qualifications!

For those of you who have attempted the old 2391 in the past, the 2394 is in essence the same qualification with the addition of an online multiple choice paper, whilst the written element has been reduced to just a one and a half hour exam.

The 2395 consists of an online multiple choice exam (a common element of both qualifications), a visual inspection task, a periodic inspection and a test on a three phase or single phase installation, which will incorporate faults the candidate will be required to identify. There will also be a separate one and a half hour written paper.

Some of the concerns being aired by the industry include the fact that the separation of this qualification may work to dilute the kudos held by inspection engineers, as well as having the effect of dummying down the subject area. Having sat the 2395 examinations, I can assure you that no such dilution will take place. The new qualification is as demanding as the old 2391, and if anything the changes have led to the examination of a wider subject area.    

Author: Mark Jenkins

When British Gas, Scottish Power and other leading energy providers in the UK announced huge new increases to their gas and electricity prices in the last week, it was another piece of bad news for a huge amount of cash-strapped Brits who are struggling with their bills. 

However, the price hikes may be good news for electricians, or those planning on enrolling on an electricians course. But why? 

People turn to an energy alternative 

The recent British Gas rises – occurring not long after the company announced a profit of £345m in the first half of 2012 – are sure to prove key in persuading a large number of people to invest in producing solar power at home. Over the past five years, it can’t have escaped your notice that growing numbers of people across Britain are placing distinctive blue solar panels on the roof of their home; choosing to generate electricity through solar power. 

It is estimated that by installing solar panels, homeowners can save hundreds of pounds every year on their energy bills – while some homes with enough panels can become entirely energy-efficient, and free from the price rises of energy giants.  

And although Government feed-in tariffs (FiTs), which pay homeowners a small fee for every kWh they produce, have been reduced in the last 12 months, homes can still be paid hundreds of pounds a year just for creating renewable solar energy. 

Great news for electricians

Of course the huge surge in popularity of solar power has lead to many jobs being created across the country for fitters, salesmen and electricians, whose in-depth knowledge and experience is vital in assembling a kit that both collects and stores valuable solar energy for people’s homes. 

It’s very true that electricians provide an ‘essential’ service to homes and businesses, and as such are less susceptible to poor economic conditions than most professions, but the continued popularity of solar panels will only mean good news for both electricians and those who are looking for a dependable, interesting new career. 

Are you interested in making the most of the solar boom? For further information on training an electricians course, contact us at Access today – where we’ve a wide range of courses to suit your specific needs. Call us today on 0800 345 7492

As is the want of Murphy’s Law, DIY and plumbing disasters always seem to happen at the worst possible times. Whether late in the evening, in the early hours of the morning or during a bank holiday, a plumbing problem will always manifest itself with particularly poor timing.  And at specialist times like this, when immediate action is frequently necessary, many professional plumbers, who have trained on a plumbing course, will charge extortionate rates. 

Sometimes however, the problem is a simple one that you can fix yourself without involving an expensive third party. Here are some particularly straightforward plumbing problem and their simple solutions:

Unclogging a drain

When you’ve just eaten Christmas dinner or a special birthday dinner and then you find the sink to be critically blocked, the thought of doing the dishes in the bathtub fills you with dread. Usually caused by lots of bits of food or grease, a drain can be unblocked using a humble plunger or by using an instrument to poke the blockage through. 

Noisy pipes

There are some homes where particularly noisy plumbing resembles a small modernist concerto. If your pipes are banging or squeaking then it probably means they have come loose from the straps or cushions that affix them to the wall, so simply place a new piece of material around the pipes. 

Hammering pipes

When pipes start to hammer, however, there’s a different solution. Hammering pipes means that the air chambers in the pipes are empty – this can be fixed by turning the water off at the mains, then opening all the faucets to drain the entire system. Afterwards, turn off the faucets and let the water back on. The chambers should refill with air and the hammering will stop.   

Running toilet

This is one of the most common problems that people will call a plumber out for, but it can be very simply solved, usually by replacing a faulty flapper or ball assembly. However, in some cases, you may need to clean mineral deposits from the tank itself with an effective combination of vinegar, baking soda and boiling water. 

If you find that you have a natural passion for plumbing and would like to train professionally, or are simply interested in learning the ropes, Access have a wide variety of plumbing courses available. Learn more by calling 0800 3457492 today. 

Historically, property has yielded better returns than any other investment vehicle; an added benefit is that a piece of land never goes to zero value like equities and the likes.  Then, there is the regular income in the form of rent and the perks of living in a well made home to consider. However, are these benefits enough to justify the cost of enrolling in a property development course?

When should you consider property developer training?

If you have discretionary income or enough savings to invest in property, it would be best to jump into the sector well prepared. After all, a shoddily constructed house in a remote area will not fetch you the expected returns. This is where all the homework you put into buying a piece of land will come in handy.

Because property purchases involve a significant amount of money, it would certainly be prudent to consider taking a property development course before you embark on this rewarding pursuit on a business or professional level.

What can you expect from property developer training programmes?

Although a property development course offered by a reputable establishment will set you back by at least a few thousand pounds, the knowledge and experience that it provides will be invaluable when you wade out into the world of property dealings.

These training programs are designed to offer in depth information on every aspect of property development from choosing the right location to construction minutiae like interiors, tiling, plumbing, electrical systems, structural concepts and more. All in all, by the time you complete the training programme, you will be well versed with every facet of property development  

Choosing the best property development course for you

You will need to start looking for programs with a clear idea of how you intend to use this education. For instance, you can find both commercial as well residential property developer courses in the market. 

Also consider the precise area of property development that interests you; for instance, apart from the 360 degree courses that cover all aspects of property development, you can also find specific training programs that only deal with property law, or architecture and designing  or even with market analysis and more.

Once you know your requirements, look for information on establishments that offer property development courses. The internet is by far the most exhaustive source of data on colleges and other learning centres that offer vocational education.

In London alone, there are almost 40 colleges that offer training on property development; apart from this, you can also find numerous private establishments that offer formal courses on the subject.

Finally, always choose a program that will earn you a formal certification, preferably one that is accredited under the NCFE 2 Q license.

Did you know that this week is national back week? From today until the 12th of October, National Back Week aims to highlight how important it is for trade professionals, electricians and plumbers to really look after their back and ensure they’re fighting fit and ready to give their all to their job.

Back pain is the second most common cause of long-term illness in the UK and without a healthy back it’s very hard to do anything – and even more so if you’re constantly on the move and performing highly practical tasks for your job. Whether you’re lifting, driving, stretching, climbing or painting, without a healthy back it is much harder to do your job properly.

That’s why National Back Week was launched by BackCare, the charity for healthier backs, to raise awareness of keeping your back in tip-top shape. But what steps can trades people take to ensure a healthy back?

Keep moving

Like all muscles, the tendons and sinews that make up your back get stronger the more often they’re used. So, a great way of keeping back pain at bay is by staying active. Luckily, as a tradesperson, you’re likely to be frequently on your feet, bending, lifting and using your back muscles, so they are likely to be pretty strong. If you have injured your back, remember that strengthening those muscles is the key to regaining your health, so try low-impact exercise like swimming.

Sit well

Although you’re likely to be frequently off your feet, many back problems arise as a result of poor posture while seated. So when you’re doing paperwork or relaxing at home, ensure that your back is straight and well-supported. Plus, be sure to frequently adjust your sitting position, as sticking to the same posture for a long period of time could lead to a repetitive strain injury.

Lift safely

Many back injuries occur as a result of lifting something that’s too heavy for you to cope, and it’s important to remember that no bravado and man-points can mask the agony of a bad back. So, when you’re next confronted by a package that’s too heavy to lift, ask a friend to help you with it, or transport it in pieces. By recognising your limits, your back will stay safe.

Here at Access, we provide a wide variety of plumbing, decorating and electrician courses that can suit your specific background, age and career needs. To learn more about our fun, flexible courses, explore the rest of the site or speak to one of our team on 0800 3457492. 

We’ve all heard those scary stories about ’cowboy’ builders, plumbers and contractors who’ve overcharged homeowners and then left a property in disarray after a seemingly simple job. And although they’re very rare, it’s still important to ensure that your plumbing job is performed by a trustworthy professional who has trained on a plumbing course and who will give you a reliable service at a fair price.

So how can we tell the cowboys from the good guys?

Research reliable plumbers

Be sure to ask a variety of people who they use for plumbing services in the local area. By contacting someone who’s trusted by friends and family (preferably that you also know), you’re much more likely to avoid disreputable plumbers. Also, be sure to request references from prospective plumbers; if they don’t possess a portfolio of satisfied customers, then it may be worth looking elsewhere.

Get a written quote

It may sound simple, but a good, trusted, trained plumber will have no problem providing a written quote for the work he’s about to undertake. If your selected plumber scribbles a quote on a note or will only offer a verbal agreement, it’s not worth the hassle.

Insist on a trained individual

Plumbers of any repute will have a recognised plumbing qualification that shows they have the core competencies to get your job done quickly and effectively, so you should insist on your plumber having one.

Ask for insurance policies

A trusted plumber will have an insurance policy that will protect both you and them in the event of anything going wrong, so don’t start working with someone who doesn’t have one.

Tell others

And don’t forget, you have the capability to stop cowboy plumbers yourself by letting other people know of better tradesmen elsewhere. If your plumber is friendly, flexible and competent, then be sure to tell your friends, who will be far more likely to use them rather than an untrustworthy scammer.

Do you think you have the skills to become a plumber? Hone them with plumbing courses at Access. There are a range of different plumbing courses available – to learn more call 0800 345 7492.

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