NICEIC and ELECSA have expressed their concern towards parliamentary recommendations to alter the current-standing electricians' Compentent Persons Scheme system, which if granted would require all domestic electricians to have a qualifications equivalent to an NVQ level 3 within the next five years.

The current system requires simply one person at a firm to be at a Qualified Supervisor level (equivalent to that of an NVQ 3), who is responsible for the final checking of work and signing off that it has been completed in accordance with standards and regulations. However what is now being proposed is that all electricians, from firm employees to self-employed ones, should have this level of qualification. 

This, among other suggestions, have come following a report from the Communities and Local Government Committee stemming from a number of health and safety incidents from the last few years. Among these was the Emma Shaw incident from 2007, where the 22-year-old mother was electrocuted whilst mopping up water from a faulty boiler.

CEO of Certsure (operator of both NICEIC and ELECSA) Emma Shaw spoke out, saying that these measures would place "a huge onus on firms" regardless of size. It is feared costs will be pushed up as apprentices are slowly phased out, causing the electrical industry to suffer in the long term. Clancy also stated;

"The QS system, which Part P is based on, is proven to work and as the committee states in its report has actually pushed domestic electrical installation standards up in recent years."

Certsure stresses that the view that firms are sending out unqualified electricians is unfounded, with electrician firms fully aware of their responsibility and 80% of domestic work carried out by Part P qualified electricians. The question is though - is 80% enough?

However the two groups have welcomed other recommendations made by the report, which include:

  • Calls for an annual limit on the number of jobs that a single QS can review
  • Action from the government to raise public awareness of Part P – similar to that of Gas Safe
  • Proactive enforcement against those who breach Part P and those who work outside of competent person schemes
  • A single register for all Part P electricians covering all schemes

Meanwhile the Committee themselves are fully backing their proposals, with Clive Betts MP arguing that the current system "can brand the incompetent as competent" as homeowners have no guarantee that the electricians turning up at their doors are fully qualified. The commitee also calls into question whether a limited amount of supervisors are "adequately able to check work with such large caseloads".

He concludes; "Under the changes we propose people would know that the electrician working in their home is qualified. If, as scheme operators told us, standards of electricians are already high, then the added criteria will not be too onerous.  

"During the five year transition there should be an annual limit — agreed by the industry — on the maximum number of transactions that a single qualified supervisor can review. This will increase the chance that in the interim unqualified electricians will at least be having their work properly checked by a qualified supervisor."

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Electrical Contracting News

The apparent skills shortage and lack of young people joining the construction sector continues to be a burning issue for the industry, training centres, colleges and awarding bodies alike. Construction productivity has been steadily growing over the past few months and is expected to continue in the next few years, however a significant portion of the existing workforce is set to retire and meanwhile schools seem to be actively discouraging leaving students to take up vocational careers in the industry. These things mixed together sound like a recipe for disaster, so it's no wonder that the CITB have referred to the incoming scenario as a "ticking time bomb". Something needs to be done, and the first port of call is better promotion of apprenticeships and an eventual career in the construction industry to young adults - namely 16-25 year olds. And the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), Construction Training Industry Board (CITB) and City & Guilds have all been doing research into how this can be achieved.

To begin, the CIOB and CITB joined forces last month to help produce a cross-party parliamentary enquiry entitled "No more lost generations: Creating construction jobs for young people". The cover of the 23-page report sums up the problem succinctly - Britain has one million NEETs (Not in education, employment or training) aged 16-24, and there are at least 182,000 construction jobs to be filled by 2018. However only 7,280 completed a construction apprenticeship last year - prompting the bodies' to firmly say "We have to do better."

Amongst the full report, which highlights the difficult economic recession the construction industry went through and how its recovery is progressing, a number of different strategies are suggested to solve this very real problem. These include:

  • Improving understanding in schools of the wide variety of careers the construction industry offers. This includes traditional crafts, management and even computer-based modelling.
  • Making it easier for young people to find an appropriate entry route into the industry - whether it be through apprenticeships or qualifications.
  • Ensuring training programmes are better linked to the nature of jobs likely to be available
  • Using the levers available through public-sector procurement and the planning system to require realistic and effective training and employment commitments from employers.
  • Securing greater commitment and buy-in from industry leaders.

The report also put forward a selection of proposed actions to help bring about these improvements, including a training summit between the CITB and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills with backing from the Construction Leadership Council. Additional measures suggested included a revitalised apprenticeship strategy, local authorities to leverage planning obligations, more leadership from social landlords and public bodies and finally a step change in the careers advice young people receive.

Meanwhile City & Guilds own research, titled "Building Futures on Shifting Foundations", looked at what skills, education and training was currently required by the construction industry. It took a sample of 344 respondents - made up of 168 senior managers from construction businesses and 176 education providers who deliver qualifications needed to break into the industry. The research was done in relation to Construction 2025, a joint strategy between the Government and Industry that sets out how Britain could be at the forefront of global construction in the future. 

The survey identified that employers do indeed recognise a skills gap when it comes to driving the construction industry forward, with the main skills they felt lacking being:

  • Trade skills - 42% recognising a gap
  • Maths and English - 39% recognising a gap
  • Problem solving - 35% recognising a gap
  • Technical skills - 31% recognising  a gap

Most importantly though the survey revealed although apprenticeships may be the key to fixing the industry's problems, employers aren't utilising this vital role. The survey found:

  • 42% of businesses said that they currently employ no apprentices
  • 40% said apprentices made up less than 1% of their workforce
  • Just over half (56%) said they don't plan to take on any apprentices in the next year
Problems cited by these employers included "funding issues" and "uncertainty around my firm's workload", however a significant proportion (70%) recognised the financial support they could receive by taking on an apprentice. They also questioned respondents on the Richard Review - an independent report issued to review the current apprenticeship system and identify how it can changed to meet the needs of the future economy. While half (49%) admitted that they had not heard of the report before, upon learning more about it 56% agreed it is important for the future of the construction industry. 

For more in-depth detail, read the full reports here:

CIOB/CITB: No More Lost Generations: Creating construction jobs for
young people (PDF)

City & Guilds: Building Futures on Shifting Foundations (PDF)

 

The outlook is currently very bright for the construction industry, however in order for things to work out successfully the path it must take is clear. Official bodies of all different origin agree that young people taking up a career in construction in the key to plugging this skills shortage and ensuring that the construction "boom" really is a boom. Careers in bricklaying, carpentry, plastering, tiling and painting/decorating are not the stereotypical jobs many media outlets portray them to be. As well as the crucial element of skill and technique required by them, these active careers are varied and exciting - with workers citing them as among the happiest of careers as well as enjoying an impressive salary. If academic education doesn't appeal to you or you want to enter a line of work where this is actually a place for you, then a construction career may be just what you're looking for and Access Training is right here to help. We offer intensive training courses in all construction trades, making us one of the most varied training centres in the UK. At our state-of-the-art training centre just on the outskirts of Cardiff city centre you'll be able to learn the vital skills from experienced professionals, earning the necessary qualifications in a fraction of the time you would with a college course - without skimping on any of the quality!

To find out more about what we can offer you here at Access to kickstart your new career in the fastest and most effective way possible, give our advice team a call on 0800 345 7492.

After a pretty abysmal first year, it's no surprise that the Green Deal - the UK Government's flagship energy saving programme, is going to be going through some much needed changes. After all, you know its bad when even Energy Secretary Ed Davey - one of the men behind the scheme, calls it "clunky", "complex" and "disappointing".

Speaking at the Ecobuild convention that's taken place in London's Excel centre over the last few days, Mr Davey launched a consultation on the changes that will be made to Green Deal sister scheme ECO (Energy Companies Obligation), while at the same time reaffirming that the DECC were about to make some vital changes to the overall programme.

He said that the Government had been looking to "streamline" the Green Deal from very early on, and that the fact changes need to be made after only one year shouldn't be that surprising given "the scale of the ambition". He also added that further incentives for people to sign up would be unveiled in the coming weeks.

The latest figures from January did report that the scheme was beginning to make a comeback, with 1,277 plans in place by the end of the month - 746 of which were completed. However Mr Davey stressed that selling finance plans was not the main aim of the scheme:

"The fact that most people currently having a Green Deal assessment are not then going on to choose Green Deal finance plans shouldn’t actually worry us.

"How people pay for energy efficiency improvements is not after all the main issue. The aim of the Green Deal isn’t to sell credit plans, but to make our homes warmer, cheaper and greener."

It's great to see that the DECC are pushing these Green Deal changes, but is there really that much new info since the last time Ed Davey announced what they would be doing. Hopefully this will be a move that brings the Green Deal into the spotlight, rather than empty promises made during a sudden rise that may not amount to anything. Only time will tell...

Via Building.co.uk

With the discovery that students are being actively discouraged from taking up vocational careers such as work in the construction industry, the CITB are urging companies to take more pro-active measures to ensure that the industry looks more attractive to youngsters.

Their suggestion is for construction firms to start making visits to schools during careers fairs and the like so that they will be in pupils' minds when they are considering what to do once they leave the world of education. Chairman James Wates said that he would like to see 50 employers visit 50 different schools this year, which would "send a powerful message" about the industry and the many opportunities it offers.

"Our industry has to compete with many others for future talent," he said. "We can’t leave this to existing careers advice because we need to reach teachers in order to reach pupils."

Energy suppliers EDF Energy have already begun taking similar measures, working closely with local schools near its planned new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point. They have said they've already reached out to around 35,000 school students in Somerset, creating a variety of exciting activities through a special education programme. EDF have said the results have been "very encouraging", with many students now considering/re-considering a career in the construction industry.

With less youngsters joining the various construction trades and the industry itself experiencing a boom thanks to housing growth and other factors, more certainly needs to be done before the older workforce retires and the industry suffers even more of a skills shortage. Access Training is doing its part to plug the skills gap, offering intensive training courses in a number of construction trades complete with the qualifications required by employers. Our courses are fast-paced, but offer high-quality teaching that easily rivals the longer courses you find at colleges.

For more information please contact our course advice team on 0800 345 7492.

Via Construction Enquirer

Charlie Mullins, head of arguably Britain's biggest plumbing firm - Plimco Plumbers, has taken a stand to highlight a serious loophole in current gas regulations. 

While it is common knowledge that gas engineers need to become Gas Safe registered once qualified in order to legally install and maintain gas appliances, the same does not apply when it comes to the purchasing of boilers and other gas-related equipment. Although some builders' merchants will check their customers registration before letting them buy such things, an increase in internet-based suppliers is making this something harder and harder to police.

Because of this, rogue engineers can find it far easier to trick customers into believing that they are Gas Safe registered. Not only them, but also unqualified indviduals such as homeowners who may not know the rules and believe they could have a go at it themselves. Should a mistake be made by either of these parties, the results can be fatal and potentially cost people their lives.

Therefor Mr Mullins believes that the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) needs to clamp down on this huge flaw in the system, extending its regulation of the gas market to the purchase of equipment - something that can only be done by altering the law.

The Plimco Plumbers CEO considers it "ludicrous" that buying boilers/gas equipment is as simple as walking into a shop or clicking your mouse. He added that gas "in the wrong hands is a lethal weapon and used incorrectly people will end up dead".

He went on to talk about how once a "cowboy gas fitter or over enthusiastic amatuer" is in possession of these things, the law is powerless to save lives despite it being illegal for them to install it. Certainly prosecutions can follow should that person be found out, but in most of these cases prosecutions only happen after a life-taking tragedy has already happened.

Charlie suggests:"The truth of the matter is there’s only one opportunity to protect people from this dangerous legal anomaly and that’s to make it illegal to buy gas equipment without a Gas Safe ticket. We have built ourselves a pretty decent safety system to protect people from monoxide poisoning, so why do we insist on retaining a great big hole in the net? The law needs to be changed because this is something that will save lives."

What are your thoughts on the matter? Certainly the thought of non-qualified people being able to go into their local branch of B&Q and purchase gas equipment should be alarming to all the Gas Safe registered installers out there, after all the training you have gone through to get where you are today. To become a fully qualified gas engineer, candidates need to go through a rigorous training course - at the end of which they will be able to build up their gas portfolio and pass the required ACS assessments. Only then will you be able to join the Gas Safe register and be legally permitted to work on gas installations and appliances.

To find out more about what it takes to become a Gas Safe engineer and Access Training's range of intensive gas courses, give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

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