Every so often its good for this blog to break away for the wealth of industry news going on in the world, and there's never a better reason for it than to share our own students' success stories. Today we've got some REALLY good news to share, as we congratulate last month's electrician students on completing their 2395 Electrical Inspection and Testing courses with a 100% pass rate!

The City & Guilds 2395 Periodic Inspection & Testing is renowned for being a notoriously difficult qualification to achieve. It is aimed at experienced electricians (and thus there are specific criteria candidates need to meet before they can even attempt the exam) who wish to gain further knowledge in the inspection, testing and certification of electrical installations. The assessment itself consists of the following three parts;

  • A multi-choice online exam
  • A closed book written exam
  • A practical exam

Upon successful completion, candidates will be able to complete the Electrical Condition Installation Report. However the difficulty of the course is reflected in the pass rate, with the last Chief Examiner's Report (dated December 2013) showing a national pass rate of 47%. Nevertheless, Access Training has remained confident in its ability to deliver the test, promising candidates that against the odds they too will be able to gain this highly sought after qualification. And our results for February prove that we weren't wrong.

100% of our entrants passed the exam last month, and our sister centre The Plumbing Academy wasn't far behind with four out of five of their candidates also achieving this prestigious qualification. Very few, if any, centres have achieved such pass rates in the past, collectively making Access Training Academies among the top training centres in the country for this qualification. But this isn't our success - a huge congratulations to all our successful students and all the best with your new qualification and career prospects.

Centre manager Tony Maus said, "When you compare the national pass rate with our own in both centres the results just speak for themselves. This is fantastic news and well done to all our successful candidates. They've earned it."

If you're an experienced electrician looking to further their career and skillset, have you thought about giving the 2395 qualification a go yourself? At Access we are determined to maintain this excellent pass rate well into the future and look forward to you being a part of it, so give us a call on 0800 345 7492 to find out more.

Trainee and existing tradespeople alike will know there's a lot to remember when it comes to current building regulations. Whether it's having to remember Part P when performing electrical installations or keeping energy efficiency in mind because of Part L, it's a lot to take in. However tradespeople's lives are about to get that little bit easier when it comes to house building, as Communities minister Stephen Williams announced that the current housing regulations were "complicated and confusing" and "ripe for reform".

The proposed changes are a very large scale, reducing the current 100 standards down to a mere 10, with the number of remaining pages of guidance from 1,000 down to less than a hundred. Among the abolished standards are requirements for rainwater harvesting in places that don't suffer from water shortages, requirements for more than one phone line to be installed and requirements for compost bins and secure sheds in gardens.

Another important change is that this new system technical requirements will be solely assessed by building control bodies. Currently work needs to be check by multiple organisations such as the planning authority, a Code for Sustainable Homes Assessor, Homes & Communities Agency as well as the aforementioned building control organisation and various other independent assessors.

Other changes being made to the regulations include:

  • Optional regulations such as water efficiency and wheelchair access that is up to councils whether to apply or not.
  • A single national space standard.
  • A new standard for security in new homes.
  • New energy standards which allow councils to impose locally-set targets for energy efficiency and renewables.

More detailed information is still yet to be revealed, however the news seems to have been received positively by housebuilders across the UK. Head of Residential at construction consultant EC Harris Mark Farmer said that they are "a further step toward improving housing standards and supporting house builders to reduce the national housing shortfall".

We'll provide more detailed news on these changes as they come, but for now it certainly seems like tradespeople will have a little less red tape to deal with when it comes to new house building. If you'd like to join the construction boom and become a professional tradesperson, give Access Training a call on 0800 345 7492 to find out more about our trades training courses.

Via Construction Enquirer

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.

Although construction productivity is on the rise, its full potential is being held back by a worrying skills shortage across all sectors. With a significant portion of the workforce set to retire over the next few years, more needs to be done to encourage young people to take up construction training courses and join a workforce desperately in need of expansion. And a recent survey from the Edge Foundation has unearthed some rather worrying results...

It found that over a third of students are being actively discouraged from vocational education by schools, being told that they will be more successful if they choose the academic pathway. 22% were even told that they were "too clever" for vocational education. On the parent side of things, only half (51%) encouraged their child's choice to pursue a vocational career as opposed to the 74% that would much prefer to support them through an academic route.

Thankfully the survey did find out some positive results for the construction industry. Those that chose vocational careers were revealed to be just as happy with their choice as those that opted for the academic route, with earnings comparable between the two. 

In response to the survey, Edge Foundation CEO Jan Hodges was disappointed that so few parents and teachers saw vocational education as worthwhile, despite it yielding equal levels of happiness, job satisfaction and financial gain. Pointing out that a skilled workforce is essential to the British economy, she said:

"The stigma attached to vocational learning is old-fashioned and unjust."

At Access Training we agree that the negative stigma attached to joining the construction industry and other vocational careers needs to stop. The benefits of an academic pathway are not as glamorous as they are made out to be, nor are the chances of success. Think about it - if everyone is heading in that direction are there really going to be jobs to support everyone? The answer is obviously no, and this is why more and more graduates are coming out of university and heading straight into office jobs or unemployment. Meanwhile the construction industry is welcoming more new recruits than ever, but there simply aren't enough skilled labourers to fill the gap.

Construction training is not what many people make it out to be - it may rely more on physical skill than academia, but that doesn't mean there isn't an intergral element of theory to it. And this goes for all construction trades - whether it be bricklaying, carpentry, plastering, tiling or even painting and decorating. The same goes for other vocational trades such as electrics, plumbing or gas installation. A trade career can be challenging but ultimately rewarding, providing excellent job satisfaction as well as plenty of reward. Most importantly, what you learn on your trades training course is a skill for life.

Our training courses provide students with all the skills and knowledge they need for a long and prosperous career in the sector of their choosing, along with all of the relevant qualifications needed to be considered qualified by industry bodies. You will be taught in our state-of-the-art centre by industry professionals, each with a number of years' experience in their specific trade. Upon completion, you'll find a world of opportunity and career growth at your fingertips.

So does the academic route really sound that much better? Give Access a call on 0800 345 7492 to find out more about how a vocational career can change your life!

Even though we're only one month into it, 2014 is setting up to be a fantastic year for the construction industry and tradespeople alike with a seemingly constant stream of news to suggest Britain is truly climbing out of the recession and the industry has a long line of prosperity ahead of it. This doesn't look like it'll just mean more jobs in the industry for trainees currently going through various construction training courses, but improved benefits for you as well.

Reed, one of the largest recruitment companies in the UK, revealed that new vacancies on its website rose by 29% in January compared to 2013 - with construction and property leading the way with a 74% increase. This is due to the construction boom the industry is currently in the midst of, along with a significant rise in both private and public housing planned. Reed's statistics showed that around one in five of the national workforce actively searched for a new job in January.

However despite the gradual increase in job vacancies there have been over the last few months, the average salary hasn't seen much change at all. This is set to change though as a skills shortage, particularly in the construction industry, has become prevalent. Many fear that there is simply not enough trained labourers to replace those that will be retiring in the next five or so years - and so fully qualified plasterers, carpenters, tilers and bricklayers in high demand. Knowing that there's a construction boom currently taking place, workers have also gained newfound confidence in their careers. And of course, the ever-growing cost of living is also a factor in why employers are being pressured to (deservedly) increase pay.

So what does this mean for new construction trainees? Well, for starters there's never been a better time to start a career in the construction trade, whichever sector you think may be suitable for you! Qualified construction workers have always been in demand and commanded impressive salaries, but the industry really is at the top of its game right now - not only will you find yourself in an exciting and varied line of work, but your skills will be valued more than ever.

But what's the quickest and most effective way to break into the industry? College courses can be beneficial, but not only are many understaffed with limited facilities but they can also take years to complete. While the industry is expected to enjoy this "golden age" for a fair few years, there's no guarantee that the high demand for workers will last this long. What you need is an intensive trades training course - the very kind we provide here at Access Training Academies. Our training courses last a matter of weeks rather than months, and pack the same (if not better!) quality you'd find elsewhere. In smaller class sizes you'll learn from tutors with a number of years' experience in their field, completing both theory and practical work before earning valued qualifications here at our accredited Cardiff training centre. These qualifications come from awarding bodies such as City & Guilds, and represent exactly what a plasterer, carpenter, tiler or bricklayer need to break into the industry successfully.

To find out more about the construction training courses we offer, call Access on 0800 345 7492 and speak to one of our course advice team. They'll be happy to answer any questions you have and arrange a full tour of our facilities so you can see exactly what we do before signing up.

2014 is a brand new year - take hold of it and take the steps toward that new career you've always dreamed of.

 

National Apprenticeship Week is fast approaching, and the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) is just one of the many groups drawing attention to just how important that are to the trade industry.

With university degrees proving to be less helpful in the job market, its not surprising that so many young people are turning towards different career paths when leaving school. Stable jobs are getting tougher and tougher to get into as Britain slowly climbs out of the recession, and when an employer has to make cuts new graduates are usually the ones that suffer. By learning a trade such as plumbing, electrics or any sub-sector of the construction industry, young people are providing themselves with skills for life that are often in demand for more than the skills most degrees yield.

According to the Office of National Statistics, over a quarter of university graduates are earning less than school leavers on apprenticeships. Not only this, but a survey by BAE Systems and the Royal Academy of Engineering also highlighted just how beneficial trades training courses can be. Almost a third of respondants (29%) said that they now see training schemes as a viable option for their children. They also admitted that five years ago it was something they would have never even considered.

CIPHE CEO Kevin Wellmen stressed just how important apprenticeships, specifically calling them the "lifeblood of the industry" and saying that they should be given the respect they deserve. He added: "For too long they have been seen as a second-class route to a career. I believe that attitude is now changing."

However, he also commented that the plumbing and heating industry needs its apprentices to be of the highest standard, which they should aim toward by achieving an NVQ diploma. This will "ensure they have the right skills to tackle the challenges they will meet in the workplace".

And where can you achieve an NVQ qualification? Access Training Academies of course! Our intensive training courses provide all the skill and quality you'd find in a college course, but in a fraction of that time. The tutors are all experiences tradesmen themselves, all with a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with you in classes of no more than eight students to a tutor. With accredititation from the likes of City & Guilds, Logic, BPEC, NICEIC, the Gas Safe Register and more, you can rest assured that we put nothing short of 100% quality into all of our trade courses. To find out more, give our team a call on 0800 345 7492.

National Apprentice Week 2014 will take place from the 3rd to the 7th March. Stay tuned to this blog for more stories during that time!

It seems like almost every day we're posting about the ongoing construction boom and just how much its going to benefit new construction trainees, but the industry really is on the rise and the good news just keeps on coming!

Now the latest CITB Construction Skills Network forecast is estimating that the industry is set to see 182,000 new jobs created over the next five years. This rapidly recovering market is led by increased housing demand, with skill shortages predicted across several occupations. In addition to this, planned new nuclear builds will also result in an increased demand for scaffolders over a period of at least four years.

Over the next five years, this is how construction performance in the UK is expected to look:

  • The South West, Wales and East Anglia will benefit to perform the strongest, at +3.5%, +3.4% and 3% respectively - all above the national average of 2.2%.
  • Other areas will feel the effects much more slowly, but the North West (+1.3%), East Midlands (1.1%) and West Midlands (+0.8%) are all still set to improve.
  • Employment growth is a lot more mixed. Some areas are set to see a notable growth (East Anglia is expected to increase by an average of 2% a year), while others may see a reduction (the West Midlands at 0.2%)
  • Private housing will be the main drive for the growth, with the sub-sector rising by around 7% in 2014, with a further 5% the following year. From then on, its expected to grow by 4.6% a year until 2018.
  • Infrastructure is set to have the second largest annual growth, at 3.6%, followed by industrial (3%) and public housing (2.2%)

CITB chairman James Wates commented that the report showed that the economy is "turning the corner" and that the construction industry is benefitting from that. However he also stated: "Growth needs to be sustainable; underpinned by long-term infrastructure projects and continued investment. Employment in 2018 is predicted to be 196,000 below pre-recession levels, which is why measures must be taken now to ensure growth is sustained over the long-term."

Do you need any further proof that now is the time to take up a trades training course and enter the construction industry? Over the next few years there is going to be increasing demand for bricklayers, carpenters, plasterers, tilers and painters/decorators. All of these professions are needed in order to meet the rising housing quota, and entering the industry as a qualified professional has never been easier. Access Training Academies offer quality, accredited courses in all of these trades at our state-of-the-art training centre just outside Cardiff city centre. Here you'll learn from our experienced tutors in classes no larger than eight students, permitting to work closely alongside your tutor. After learning the skills required to be a professional tradesperson, you'll be able to undertake the tests required to earn your qualifications right here at the centre. From there the construction world is your oyster - you can go and find employment in a larger company, or alternatively take the steps to set up your own business.

The best part is, these intensive courses will get you fully trained in a matter of weeks, as opposed to the few years it will take with a college course. That may sound like you're getting much less out of it, but our City & Guilds accreditation is a sure symbol that we don't skimp on any of the quality. To find out more about our range of course please fill in the online form found on this website or give us a call on 0800 345 7492. From there one of our course advisors will be happy to answer any outstanding questions you may have.

The construction boom is here, don't miss out!

2014 is already shaping up to be a big year for Access Training Academies, and today (the 13th January) marks the first steps we'll be taking to make your training experience here even better. This year ACS gas assessments will be returning to our Cardiff training centre.

Now students that complete their gas training at Access will be able to complete their Logic ACS (Accredited Certification Scheme) gas assessments here. ACS is the industry recognised and accepted route for students to enter into the gas industry, earning their gas certificate which is needed to become a member of the Gas Safe Register. This itself is a legal requirement to be able to work on all gas installations and appliances in the UK. These assessments will not only be available to those who have completed an extensive gas course here, but is also open to others who may have completed a gas course elsewhere.

Students will be able to complete both the written and practical assessments required to qualify, covering the CCN1 Core Domestic Gas Safety module and then any of the additional appliance assessments relevant to your area of work. This includes the CENWAT (Central Heating Boilers & Water Heaters) qualification, CKR1 (Cookers), HTR1 (Gas Fires) and more. For a full list of what we can offer you here at Access, please get in contact.

To find out more about ACS gas assessments, our plumbing training or any of the many other trades training courses we provide here at Access please get in contact with our course advice team on 0800 345 7492 or via the form provided on this website. They'll be more than happy to answer any further questions you might have, as well as arrange of a tour of our facilities so you can get a first-hand look at what we do.

The construction industry continues to gather momentum as surveyors forecast a significant rise in Welsh house building in 2014.

According to research direct from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), up to 79% more surveyors believe workloads are going to increase this year - the highest recorded number since numbers were first recorded 15 years ago. On top of this, 25% more surveyors said work on major building projects had grown in the last three months of last year - the most positive infrastructure figure seen in the last six years.

However it isn't all good news, as the survey also highlights concern over labour and material shortages - two factors that could very easily hold back the recovery.

In Wales alone 24% of surveyors admitted to struggling to recruit the skilled labourers they needed between October and December last year. During these months 40% also claimed that a lack of materials was also a significant problem - only this figure is representative of the whole of the UK rather than just Wales. 

RICS Wales chairman Neil Brierley remains optimistic about the situation though, as he sees this increase in building work across the country as "an excellent opportunity for future job opportunities, provided growth can be sustained". In agreement with the director of the Institute of Directors (IoD) in Wales Robert Lloyd Griffiths, who said nine out of ten members in the institute anticipate the growth being stronger than it was last year.

2014 is already proving to be a more perfect time than ever to join the construction trade. Job prospects are higher than ever, and as the industry continues to flourish so will your new career as a bricklayer, carpenter, plasterer or tiler. The construction trade offers many benefits that you might not find elsewhere and/or in your current place of work - better job satisfaction, quality of life, significant earning potential and most importantly JOB SECURITY (something that's even more evident in current circumstances). 

Enrol on one of Access Training Academy's construction training courses and you'll be taught by our experienced teaching staff in a state-of-the-art centre. Our courses are all accredited by leading awarding bodies in the industry and you'll earn a professional level of skill in a fraction of the time a college course would take, along with all of the necessary qualifications.

To find out more about the construction training we have here at Access please view the course information pages on the left hand side of the website or contact one of our course advisers on 0800 345 7492.

 

The staff at Access Training would like to wish everyone a happy new year and once again offer our thanks for choosing Access Training Academies as your training provider.

2014 is already shaping up to be a good year with real signs for economic growth in the construction industry that will surely stretch across all trades. Construction growth in the UK continued through to the end of 2013, with more anticipated for 2014. We've previously reported that a construction boom is expected by leading economists over the next few years, and while this is specifically geared toward general construction such as bricklaying and carpentry all trades will inevitably benefit. Think about this scenario - as more houses are built across the UK, who's going to be the one to install electrical wiring and pipework throughout them? This really is a boom all trades can look forward to.

But while the renewables sector may see a slight increase over this year, as it stands now measures such as the Green Deal are still a long way off achieving the success that is expected of them. Speaking to our plumbing tutors, they've suggested that the government needs to promote far more awareness about the numerous green options that are available to them and just how they can save them money. One example they provided was that many people are unaware that feed-in-tariffs are available on many different forms of renewable energy and not just simply solar PV panels. Whatever the scale though, one thing is certainly for sure - renewable energy is on the rise and now is the time for installers to get in on it and beat their competitors to the punch.

It's a brand new year, and therefore the perfect time for a brand new chapter in your life. Bored with your current job? Tired of working behind a desk and want to do something more physical, challenging and exciting? An Access Training course is only the start. At our state-of-the-art training centre we offer intensive courses in plumbing, electric, gas engineering, plastering, tiling, bricklaying, carpentry and painting & decorating. Each and every one of these will not only provide you with professional skills and qualifications that could take years to build up elsewhere, but are staffed by highly experienced tutors so you can be certain that none of the quality is skimped.

To find out more about our range of courses and to book your place, get in contact with one of our advisers by calling 0800 345 7492 or filling in the information form found on this website.

Having fully completed his professional electrician course, ex-rugby player and Access Academies student Xavier Rush has now turned his attention towards retraining in a second trade and begun a plumbing training course with us. We caught up with him during the fourth week of his six week course to find out how he's getting on and how the plumbing training has differed from his previous experience with the electrical training course. One thing's for sure, it's a very different experience to playing rugby for both the All Blacks and Cardiff Blues...

How are you finding the change from electrical work to a plumbing course?

It’s definitely the most practical I’ve done so far! There was a lot of theory with the electric but theory there is here is probably a lot easier to grasp. But then it’s also far more hands on too. It’s very busy – we’ve been working with low carbon steel and a lot of copper as well. I fitted a bathroom last week which was enjoyable – it’s nice to step back and see the results sometimes.

But a lot like the electric these are intense course and you pick up a lot of information and skills quickly. It helps that you’re learning from people who’ve been in the industry a long time.

Had you done any plumbing before starting the course?

No, before this I didn’t have a thing – I couldn’t even stop a leak. You’ve got to pick it up quite quickly as there’s no one there holding your hand. Once you’ve got an understanding of it all it gets a lot easier. It’s just knowing what fittings do what and what products you’re working with, that sort of thing.

Have you found anything especially difficult over the last four weeks?

I suppose it just takes you a while before you get competent with everything really. Nothing is truly mind boggling. There were a few issues fitting a bath, but it’s the kind of stuff you can get your head around.

How have the tutors been?

They’ve been great and a really big help this week especially. They don’t baby you at all, but make sure to tell you exactly where you’ve gone wrong – which is exactly what they need to do. If you were working in someone’s house and you spring a leak and their lounge ceiling falls in you’re going to be in trouble. So you’ve just got to know. It’s just like anything – the more you practice you have, the better you get. Its good being here because if you’re going to make mistakes make them here, that way I can waste your copper rather than mine!

How have you found the studying at home element of the course?

Like I said, you are picking up a lot of information in a short time so while you’re here you’ve really got to apply yourself for the six weeks. There’s a lot of going home, revising, getting ready for exams because if you don’t do the homework you don’t get the passes. You have got to read the book and retain that information. I’ve had many a late night drinking coffees at Starbucks looking like a bit of a geek.

And finally, how much time do you have left here before you’re all done?

I’ve got two more weeks after Christmas. It’s been an intense four weeks so it’ll be nice to have a bit of a break and then come back and hit it again. Because we’ve done so much over the last few weeks and put so many fittings together you should be able to retain a lot of the information. And then after that that’ll be it for me…for now! I might come back and do the one week electrical testing course just to freshen up on that. But it’s just brilliant to come here and reskill so quickly as an older person. I did carpentry when I left school but to think now I’ve got plumbing and electric qualifications backing that up. And to feel confident with that within ten weeks is berserk really – they’re skills you’ve obviously got for life.

I can look at stuff in houses now and understand it. Obviously it doesn’t give you all the experience – you’re still going to go out there and make mistakes but it’s given me a really good grasp of both industries, both the electric and the plumbing.

As Xavier approaches the end of his Access Academies training, we'll be talking to him again in the new year to discuss his overall experiences and his plans for the future. In the meantime if you have any questions you'd like to ask him about changing careers and retraining in a new trade, please let us know over on Twitter or Facebook. If you yourself would like more information on Access' extensive range of trades training courses (also including gas engineering, carpentry, bricklaying, plastering, tiling and painting/decorating), please get in contact with one of our course advisers on 0800 345 7492.

December may not seem like the most suitable time to be studying on a trades training course to become a professional tradesman, but the truth is these winter months are actually when plumbers, electricians, gas engineers, bricklayers and roofers are needed more than ever. With the end of the year just around the corner and the cold weather homing in on Britain, government-endorsed standards group Trustmark is warning owners to ensure that their homes are fully prepared before the harsh season hits.

Trustmark have already noted a rise in tradesperson viewings on their online database during October, which saw an a 36% increase in comparison to 2012. Across the trades roofers (32%), plumbers/heating engineers (35%) and electricians (20%) were the ones to see the biggest rise, and with heavy snow forecast until May 2014, these professionals are going to be needed more than ever.

Below is a list of quick spot checks Trustmark recommend doing to help reduce the risk of the winter weather causing damage to your home:

  • Most importantly, you should get your boiler and central heating checked/serviced by a Gas Safe registered engineer. By making sure your boiler is in peak condition, it will burn far more efficiently - meaning it'll use less fuel AND be warmer. Checking your boiler/central heating also means that if there is any serious problems, you'll be avoiding any tragedy that could happen.
  • Make sure your insulation is in good quality. Not just your loft, but also look into lag pipes, water tanks and draught excluders.
  • Clean out gutters and outlets of any leaves and debris, followed by checking for any leaks or damage.
  • Look out for any damaged or loose tiles on your roof (from ground level to ensure your safety). Leep an eye out for any leaks or condensation appearing on the ceiling.
  • Make sure no exterior walls have any cracked, loose or missing pointing. If they do, be sure to get it fixed before water can get into it.

They also highly recommend keeping a useful list of phonenumbers of tradepeople in your area just incase of an emergency - plumbers, electricians, gas engineers, roofers, carpenters...whoever you might need if a problem should arise.

So if you're a tradesperson yourself, be prepared for your work to be more crucial to homeowners than ever - you never know when you're going to be needed. Alternatively, if you're looking to start a new career as a fully-qualified tradesperson now could be the perfect time to start. An intensive course from Access Training Academies can have you up and qualified in a matter of weeks - just in time to help those in need. To find out more about our range of courses, including plumbing, gas, electric and various construction trades, please give our advisers a call on 0800 345 7492.