As we've previously mentioned, Access Training have made a few changes to the way we run the Unvented Cylinders plumbing course recently. With the new City & Guilds syllabus our course follows, students are now required physically commission and maintain a cylinder in order to achieve the qualification. This is important as it will make sure candidates are physically familiar with unvented cylinders rather than just having a theoretical knowledge of how to handle them. Knowing in theory is all well and good, but this is one area inparticularly that can go wrong without the right skills and know-how.

An Unvented Cylinder is a hot water storage system that relies on storage cylinders fed directly from cold water mains and do not incorporate a vent pipe to relieve excess build-up pressure to atmosphere. The pressure for the hot water system is then derived from the mains pressure supply rather than a cold water storage tank. The advantages of using such a system include:

  • Balanced pressure in both hot and cold taps for showers
  • Higher water pressures available for hot taps
  • No storage cistern, eliminating any risk of contamination
  • Can be fitted anywhere in the house, making them suitable for one-storey dwellings
  • Quicker to install with less pipework and no cold storage tanks needed in the loft
  • Can possibly be used with smaller diameter pipework
  • Gives architects and service designers greater flexibility of design

Unvented cylinders are also the only systems currently used with renewable energy supplies such as ground & air heat pumps and underfloor heating, due to their nature of being almost 100% energy efficient. This makes them even more of an important thing as households strive to become greener and save energy (as well as money!).

However despite these numerous advantages installers should still show great caution and care when dealing with unvented cylinders, as failing to properly install them is extremely dangerous. Unvented hot water systems usually operate above atmospheric pressure and unless the right measures are taken to prevent overheating, the results can be quite explosive to say the least. Just have a look at this video of what can happen if adequate checks and protection haven't been made:

VIEW ON YOUTUBE

But don't let this video put you off them. As long as they are installed correctly with all of the proper safety precautions in place unvented cylinders are perfectly safe. All plumbers handling unvented cylinders are required to be qualified in accordance with Part G of the Building Regulations, which can be achieved through the Access Training Academies Unvented Hot Water Cylinders course.

For more information on our Unvented course or our wider range of intensive plumbing courses, please take a look at the plumbing section linked on the left hand side of the page. Alternatively, you can speak to our course advice team to have any questions you may have answered personally - simply call 0800 345 7492 or fill in the information form provided on this website.

New competency scheme WaterSafe seems to be a hit with qualified plumbers, as the orgainisation has proudly announced it has already hit the halfway mark for its registration target. 

Officially launched back on the 8th October, WaterSafe was created to bring all Approved Plumber Schemes under one umbrella and provide recognition for Britain's competant and qualified plumbers. The scheme acts as a national register, accreditation body and online directory designed to provide consumers with assurance that the tradespeople they hire are fully qualified. Since launch it has signed up 54% of its overall target for business registrations, with these figures also constituting 60% of the target for recognised individuals.

Those about to complete their plumbing course or plumbing training may want to consider registration with WaterSafe, as it is set to become to biggest search facility for plumbers in the UK - giving you excellent opportunity to be noticed online and gain valuable (and most importantly, free!) promotion. Members will also be given WaterSafe stationery and branding for their vehicles to gain extra credibility.

Julie Spinks, director of WaterSafe has said that this response has "already surpassed all expectations" and that the scheme looks forward to gaining more members in the months to come. She added that this was really only the beginning for WaterSafe and then said:

"As we continue to grow, we would encourage all plumbing businesses to sign up with us. Together, we can ensure properly qualified professionals will get the credit they deserve by working together to drive out unethical trading and refocus safety standards for all."

You can find out more about WaterSafe by visiting www.watersafe.org.uk

Loose Women's Janet Street Porter wrote an interesting piece in the Daily Mail last week about how university degrees are becoming less and less relevant in the working world, with more students ending up in jobs that have no relation to what they studied whatsoever. She also suggests that it's time for colleges to start focussing on offering trade learning such as plumbing, construction and electrical engineering. Her words - "Show me a poor plumber - there certainly aren't any in Central London."

She isn't wrong, yesterday the Guardian reported that half of recent UK graduates are stuck working in non-graduate jobs according the Office of National Statistics. Specialising in a trade is becoming more and more appealing to young people, which means taking up a plumbing training course could prove far more valuable to your future than a university degree. For a start an Access Academies plumbing course can be completed in a matter of weeks, as opposed to the average of three years you'd spend at university. With the relevant plumbing qualifications you'll be out making money as a professional in a matter of weeks, while with a university degree you'll be coming out years later with no guarantee of a job and that rather sizeable student loan looming over you.

There's also the matter of a plumbing training course giving you a skill for life. A university degree can teach you some really valuable things, no one is denying that. But the harsh truth is Britain is still very much in the midst of a recession, and you'd be entering any job you might find at the bottom of the ladder. And when the going gets tough sadly these are usually the people a business is first to let go of. With an intensive plumbing course behind you, you'll have a skill for life that's always going to be in demand. Working plumbing is something we would struggle to live without, and so a trustworthy plumber is someone that's going to be on call in every household. Not only that, but it's the perfect skill to take on and make into a self-employed business meaning you won't have to deal with pushy bosses or the constant worry of redundancy. Decide when you want to work and for home much, taking the jobs you want/need and build up a friendly relationship with your customers so they'll be sure to call on you again! 

Finally, and here's the best bit - anyone can learn a trade at any age. To get into university you'll need to earn the right grades, and that relies on you doing well in exams. But what if exam situations aren't for you? Exams can cause a great deal of pressure and certainly aren't a flawless way of gauging someone's intelligence. With our plumbing courses, we'll teach you everything you need to know from the ground up and are just as welcoming toward newcomers as we are to those who may have some previous experience in the plumbing trade.

So is university still sounding like the best option for you? If you'd like to work toward a more active and physical career with greater rewards and better job security, I think the choice is obvious. Come to Access Training Academies and train to be a plumber on any one of our intensive training courses. With experienced tutors, small initmate class sizes and state-of-the-art work areas, our number one goal is get you the skills you need to make this dream a reality. To find out more and speak to one of our course advisers, please give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

The Construction Industry Training Board has warned that the industry needs to put more focus on the recruitment and training of young people, after recent statistics revealed some alarming facts about the average age of Britain's construction workforce.

According to the Office of National Statistics, 19% of UK construction workers are aged 55 and over. A further 24% (518,000 people) are aged between 45 and 54. They estimate that these statistics mean at least 406,000 people will need to be replaced over the next 10 years if the labour force is stay the same size.

CITB’s interim chief executive William Burton said: “Almost one in five workers is set to retire from the construction industry over the next 5-10 years, so not taking action now to encourage young people to join the industry – and investing in the training to up-skill our existing workforce – is no longer an option. The construction sector is essential for local and national economic growth and to avoid the similar skills crisis that affected the industry in the early 1990s, we urge employers to act now.”

While more young people undoubtedly need to be adopted into the industry, these age groups show that its also never too late to join the world of construction. You could be 18, 25, 35 or older and the choice to change careers into construction could still prove a refreshing and liberating experience. If you would like to find out more about how you can join thus rewarding line of work that's constantly on the lookout for new people, give Access Training a call. We provide a wide range of construction training courses for people of all ages and backgrounds, giving you the qualifications needed to enter at a professional level. Give us a call on 0800 345 7492 and we'll be happy to tell you more.

Source: The Construction Index

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) are currently consulting recently published plans to simplify the way self-employed people pay National Insurance Contributions.

It has been put forward whether it might be less hassle to collect contributions alongside Class 4 NICs and Income Tax through the Self-Assessment Process. This would mean self-employed people would only need to fill in an annual SA return to have these NICs collected. The aim is reduce the administrative burden on self-employed people, which is the main area many express difficulty in when taking the steps to become self-employed.

HRMC are also encouraging representatives of the self-employed to respond to the consultation before the final review. The closing date for this is the 9th October 2013. More information can be found on the HMRC website.

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The financial aspect of going self-employed with your trade can be offputting to many skilled tradesmen, but here at Access Training we make sure our students are fully prepared to take that next step in their career. As well as all the relevant qualifications in electric, gas, plumbing and various construction trades, help is on hand to give you the basic knowledge you'll need to handle the technical side of self-employed life. After that you'll be free to enjoy working flexible hours while being your own boss. For more information on our training courses and what is needed to become self employed contact us via email or telephone 0800 345 7492.

Full story: HVP Magazine - Plumbers feeling positive for 2013

Plumbers across the UK are expecting to see an improvement in business throughout this year, as discovered by a recent event organised by software/service provider Sage. An overwhelming 90% of attendees are expecting their business to grow by up to 15% by the end of 2013, with many revealing that in the past managing their finances and administration tasks have been their biggest difficulty.

The main focus of the event, which was held in Croydon, was to determine whether local businesses understood the recent changes to PAYE (Pay-As-You-Earn tax) reporting with the introduction of RTI (Real Time Information) reporting requirements. Overall knowledge of these changes seemed divided, with only about half being aware of the changes and what they meant. However a third of respondents planned to increase their staffing in the near future with an apprentice or full-time employee. Those intending to expand were uncertain about what the changes mean for them, whilst those that don’t cited extra red tape as the main reason for remaining a sole operator.

Neilson Watts from Sage UK said: "I’m not surprised that the research highlighted so many people struggle with their finances. No one starts a business or becomes a plumber because they love the admin side of things – it’s because they have a skill and a genuine passion for their trade, but if you don’t get it right it can come back to bite you."

 

So will 2013 be the year you strike it big as a plumber? If you're looking to change careers and move into the world of plumbing, it's important to be fully prepared. Access Training offer a fully comprehensive plumbing course, giving you all the industry standard qualifications employers look for. But as well as improving your prospects for employed work it'll also give you good grounding to set up your own self-employed plumbing business. Even when you've completed the course, Access Training will be on hand to help you as you set up the business and our tutors available to give advice whenever you may need it.

Make 2013 your year. Call 0800 345 7492 today.

With the recession only just behind us and various other money troubles coming into play, it isn't surprising that the country as a whole has adopted some sort of "DIY Nation" mentality of late. And while its encouraging that more and more people are picking up tools and having a go at something they could perhaps do without the aid of a trained professional, this is something that could potentially affect the amount of work of those with the qualifications. However, a recent study has revealed that this might actually not be the case.

The study, commissioned by business insurance broker Swinton Commercial, took a sample of 100 tradesmen and women across the UK and found that in fact business is booming due to the number of botched jobs performed by budding DIYers. 20% of the plumbers who took part said that it often accounted for up to 84% of their workload! A further 25% said that they were regularly called out to fix DIY mishaps at business, while 100% of them were in agreement that over-ambitious DIYers are putting themselves and others at risk.

Some of the jobs reported included:

 

  • A waitress in a cafe attempting to repair a commercial boiler using a bread knife and scissors while the unit was still live.
  • An unsecured bath where overflows were running into the ceiling void. Lead pipes had been left and fudged into the copper pipes, with boxing made from MDF absorbing water.
  • A basin tap fitted without a sealing washer, causing a large water leak, which ran through the ceiling in the hallway.

 

So how does this affect you? If you consider yourself a DIY enthusiast and often do this sort of work, it's vital that you know what you're doing before you start. Access Training offer a number of DIY training courses in plumbing, electric and various construction trades. These courses outline what you're capable of doing around the house on your own not just safely, but legally as well. Knowing when a job is too difficult for you is extremely important, and there's no substitute for the work of a professional tradesman when it is needed. 

Full story: http://www.hpmmag.com/newsitem.asp?newsID=2089

View the amended Part P Document here: planningportal.gov.uk

As of last month the Government has wheeled out its latest changes to Part P of the Building Regulations in an attempt to cut down on the amount of “red tape”. In the eight years since its introduction Part P has been a vital measure in maintaining safety when it comes to electrical installations, making sure that professional electricians have the skill and competency needed to perform these tasks. In order to do certain installations, electricians (and DIYers) are required to gain their Part P certificate and join a Competent Person Scheme such as NICEIC, NAPIT or ELECSA.

The main change to the document is that it is now shorter and has greater clarity, with a notable reduction to the number of works that need to be notified to Local Authority Building Control. The full breakdown of changes is

  • Under the new regulations, any electrical work undertaken in kitchens or outdoors in no longer covered by Part P unless a new circuit is required. 
  • While before installers not registered with a Competent Person Scheme would have to notify their work so that a third-party inspector would need to check it, now these installers can instead use a registered third-party (e.g. another electrician) to sign off their work. This eliminates the cost of producing Building Regulations Compliance Certificates for some minor works, but importantly, the new regulations still retain the need to issue Electrical Installation Certificate Reports (EICRs) for all work carried out within a dwelling.
  • Reference is now made to BS 7671:2008 incorporating Amendment No. 1:2011.

The main positive that has come out of these changes is the potential new areas of work it opens up for Part P qualified electricians who can earn more from inspecting and signing off other people’s work. Organisations have also commended this new streamlined document for not compromising on safety.

However while the ESC (Electrical Safety Council) has praised the fact the Government is amending Part P, they have expressed concern over some of the changes. They believe that the areas that have seen a reduction in notifiable are reasonably high-risk according to data, and so “any electrical work must be of a particularly high standard”.

The third-party certification is also still in question, as the rules for the Approved Inspector Scheme are currently unclear. The document itself is likely to go under review again in 2015.

While there will always be a demand for qualified tradesmen such as electricians, plumbers and gas engineers, setting yourself apart from the other tradesmen in your local area is an important factor is getting your name out there among potential clients. And the best way to do this is to consider qualifying in more than one skill. Commonly gas engineer training goes hand in hand with plumbing qualifications, but there are far more potential combinations that could benefit your future career.

For example, if a plumber were to undertake electrical training it would open up a variety of new work for them that they wouldn’t be able to complete otherwise without a second tradesman. They would be able to properly install power showers, and by achieving a Part P qualification would also be permitted to sign off the work themselves once they had joined a relevant Competent Person Scheme.

In turn, if an electrician had plastering qualifications, they could provide a fresh finish to a wall surface after tearing it apart to complete an installation. The same applies for combining plastering, tiling and/or carpentry courses. You’ll be increasing both your eternal potential and boost your chance of success when starting up your own business.

Take note though, it’s vital that you train properly for your second skill just as you did the first. A plumber should not be attempting any electrical work without the proper electrical qualifications and the same goes for any other potential trades. Not only would you be putting yourself at risk, but your customer as well. By training properly, you’ll be able to do the job properly and known as a tradesman capable and competent enough to get the job done on their own.

If you would like to find out more about the multi-skills training routes available to you, give Access Training a call on 0800 345 7492 and our team will be happy to tell you more.

Not all electrical work requires a trained professional. Minor tasks such as replacing a light switch can be performed without having to notify your Local Authority Building Control Department, however they still must be done to current Building and Electrical regulation standard.

While there are a wide variety of different types of light switch you might find in the home (including pull-cord switches, narrow architrave switches and rotary dimmers), here is a guide to the most basic of them – the one-way and two-way switch. The difference between them is that two-way switches are used where there is more than one switch connected to the same light (e.g. at the top and bottom of the stairs).

Safety first

Before you start ANY sort of electrical work make sure the power is switched off at the main consumer unit OR switch off the relevant circuit breaker and lock it if you can. Then make sure that the circuit is indeed dead using a voltage tester/meter. Also take note that since 2006 the core colours inside electrical cables have changed. In the new two-core-and-earth cable, the live or phase core is insulated in a brown sheath rather than red. The neutral core is now blue as opposed to black.

What you will need:

  • Voltage tester/meter
  • Side cutters Screwdrivers
  • Green/yellow earth sleeving
  • Suitable replacement plateswitch (1 or 2-way)
  • Screws
  • Brown PVC electrical tape or sleeving

For one-way switches:

Step 1: Isolate the circuit and then confirm that the power is off using your voltage tester. Unscrew the switch faceplate and pull it forward, revealing the connections behind. These terminals will usually be marked something like L1, L2 and COM.

Step 2: Draw a diagram so that you remember which colour and number of wires were attached to each terminal. Then release the terminal screws and pull the cores from them. If the earth core is properly insulated in green/yellow sleeving and connected to the mounting box, leave this attached.

Step 3: Connect these cores to the correct terminals of the new switch, using your diagram as a reference. Tighten the screws and check they are clamping the cable cores firmly by gently tugging the wires.

Step 4: If there isn’t one already, fit a length of brown sleeving over the blue core to indicate that it is a switched live.

Step 5: If it’s not already fitted, put some green/yellow sleeving over the bare earth core of the incoming cable and connect it to the earthing terminal of the mounting box. If you’re using a metal switch, be sure to earth the switch faceplate as well.

Step 6: Double check that each connection is secure, then push the cable back into the mounting box and fit the faceplate.

 

For two-way switches:

While this is similar to a one-way switch there will normally be three cores to the cables – coloured brown (formally red), black (yellow) and grey (blue). Again these terminals will be labelled something like L1-3 and COM.

Step 1: Isolate the circuit and make sure the power is off with your voltage tester.

Step 2: Remove the faceplate from the existing switch and disconnect the cable cores.

Step 3: Note which colour goes to which terminal (write it down if you think you’ll forget!) and then transfer them to the corresponding terminals on the new switch.

 

While this is simply a brief guide to some of the electrical work you can do yourself around the home, more technical electrical work will require you to have a Part P qualification if you wish to carry it out yourself. If you are interested in learning about more work you can do or achieving Part P qualification then the best way is to learn from one of Access Training’s comprehensive electrical training courses. Offering professional qualifications to both aspiring and existing electricians as well as DIY courses, there truly is something for everyone regardless of age, gender, background or experience.

Contact Access Training on 0800 345 7492 for more information or to arrange a visit of our training facilities.

Although Part P Building regulations require a qualification to undertake extensive electrical work in your own home, minor tasks such as replacing damaged sockets or light switches can be done without having to notify your Local Building Authority Control Department. In this post we'll take you through a few simple steps to replace a plug socket or alternatively change a single one into a double.

Safety first

Before you start ANY sort of electrical work make sure the power is switched off at the main consumer unit or switch of the relevant circuit breaker and lock it if you can. Then make sure that the circuit is indeed dead using a socket tester. Make sure to also have protective gloves and safety goggles on you at all times.

Also take note that since 2006 the core colours inside electrical cables have changed. In new two-core-and-earth cables, the live/phase core is insulated in a brown sheath as opposed to a red one and the neatural core is now blue rather than black. If you are connecting old and new cables together, take extra care to make sure that the cores are attached by their corresponding colours.

What you will need:

  • Socket tester & socket template
  • Screwdriver
  • Pipe and cable detector
  • Drill
  • Socket faceplate or new double socket
  • Wall plugs and screws
  • Mounting box
  • Green/Yellow pvc sleeving
To change a damaged socket:
Step 1: Confirm you have switched off the main power using your socket tester. Once sure unscrew the socket faceplate and pull it away from the wall. Keep the screws just in case the new ones don't fit.
Step 2: Loosen the terminal screws and release the cable cores. Should the insulation be heat damaged, cut back the cores and strip the ends. If the earth core is bare, cover it with the green/yellow sleeving.
Step 3: Connect the brown (or red) core(s) to the live terminal of the faceplate, the blue (black) ones to the neutral terminal and the earth core to the earth terminal. Tighten the screws fully and fit the new faceplate. When you have turned the power back on, use the socket tester again to check it is wired correctly

To change a single flush socket to a double:
Increasing the number of sockets in a room isn't as difficult as it might sound if you follow these simple steps...
Step 1: Isolate the circuit and then use the socket tester to make sure that it is dead. Unscrew the faceplate and disconnect the cables from the single socket mounting box.
Step 2: Knock out the middle section in the double box and pass the cables through. Mark where the screw holes are on the wall using a pencil, remove the box and drill.
Step 3: Screw the new box in place and connect the cables to the terminals. Fit the new faceplate and then test using the socket tester again once power has been restored.

Hopefully after reading this you'll feel confident enough to do these tasks yourself without having to pay for a professional electrician! However if you're interested in learning more about what electrical tasks you can perform at home with the right training, or alternatively hoping to gain qualifications to become an electrician - look no further than Access Training's range of bespoke electrical courses. From Part P to PAT Testing and wiring regulations to DIY, we offer something for everyone regardless of age, background or experience.

Contact Access Training on 0800 345 7492 for more information or arrange a visit of our training facilities.

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