Blog | Published on 6th Sep 2017

Gas Installers training and apprenticeship pathways

By Neil Macdonald, Technical Manager, HHIC

Training and pathways into the plumbing and heating industry have come under much scrutiny over recent years. From apprenticeship standards to ‘fast track’ courses, everyone has their own experience and opinion.

Of course, individual ability and work ethic goes a long way to determine whether a ‘trainee’ becomes a successful engineer or not, and one route in to the industry may suit one person based upon their experience and situation, but the same course would be unsuitable for someone else.

What I am getting at here is that there is no one answer, no magic bullet to producing capable and confident engineers but there are a number of things that can, and should be continually reviewed in order to ensure that we produce a generation of excellent plumbing and heating engineers.

You may not realise it, but there is a hive of activity going on in the background. Let’s take a look…

IGEM (Institution of Gas Engineers and Managers)/IG1

Standards of training in gas work. From 1st October 2017, all Managed Learning Programs (MLP) undertaken by new entrants into the gas industry are set to change. IG1 sets out the requirements for all new trainee gas operatives in the future and is designed to bring a consistent approach to what the industry and individuals need from training.

Current Status;

The auditing of Awarding Organisations is underway- as at the time of writing this. By the end of September all nine Awarding Organisations should have been audited by a third party auditor. However, although ‘Recognisers of Training’ will have received their audits, evidence of training centre activities will have not been audited and therefore a timeline to be fully compliant with IGEM/IG/1 will have to be set. A suggestion is for full compliance from 1st October 2018.

Governance

A proposal for the ‘Governance’ of IGEM/IG/1 has been drafted and the final document and the appointment of an independent body to implement and maintain IGEM/IG/1 needs to be finalised.

Parliamentary Enquiry

Government think tank- Policy Connect are in the early stages of an inquiry into minimum training standards for gas engineers.

The principal objective of this inquiry is to investigate whether the government needs to fundamentally rethink and improve its regulatory framework for minimum standards of gas engineers.

This inquiry comes following a report* commissioned by IGEM and GISG (The Gas Industry Safety Group) from Accent, containing a series of in-depth interviews with recently qualified gas engineers to gain insights in their professional background prior to their training as well as the skills and knowledge they received during their gas engineering training.

Apprenticeship board

The APHC (Association of Plumbing & Heating Contractors) set up the Plumbing & Heating Apprenticeship board earlier this year to continue the development of the apprenticeship standard and assessment plan for the Plumbing and Domestic Heating Technician Apprenticeship for England.

Furthering their activity in this area the APHC have also set up a Plumbing & Domestic Heating Skills Partnership, to oversee the development of plumbing and heating qualifications and apprenticeships, following the closure of SummitSkills.

Whilst the industry support structures play their part, there are also ways that you, the installer, can get involved. The Department for Education (DfE) recently recruited again for industry professionals to join its employer panels designing new technical qualifications (T-Levels) for 16-19 year olds.

The T-Levels will cover different professional routes, including Engineering and Manufacturing, and Construction, and it is for these two routes that DfE has recently recruited.

There is huge value for employers to engage with this process, and help to ensure that young people will be equipped with the skills necessary to transition to, and develop, the future plumbing and heating industry. DfE wants employers to be engaged at each stage of the development of this new system; in designing the standards, the content, and approving final programmes for delivery to young people.

Training and support for new entrants in to the industry is crucial and HHIC and its members are committed to supporting all industry activity that supports the development of existing and future engineers.

*Gas Engineer Training report (Nov 2016) - Commissioned by GISG.