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Fri May 07 2021

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Basic plumbing courses criticised

25 Jul 17 Low-cost plumbing courses are flooding the industry with trainees with only basic qualifications instead of addressing the skills gap, according to the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA).

BESA has criticised a number of training providers for promoting lower-cost plumbing courses to employers at the expense of the wider-scoped building services apprenticeships. It has urged employers to set their sights higher and get “two apprentices for the price of one”.

Many colleges promote plumbing short courses because they are cheaper to deliver, but employers receive far better value for money if they enrol their staff on more technically demanding training,  rather than retraining them afterwards said BESA’s director of training Tony Howard. Such recommended training includes the new Trailblazer apprenticeships and installer, craftsperson and service & maintenance courses

“The CITB’s Construction Skills Network forecast predicts shortages of plumbers in London, but nowhere else,” he said. “Also, its research does not differentiate between the skills sets or address the chronic shortage of building services engineering installers. Employers are still being pushed towards plumbing instead of pipework qualifications. Why would you accept that? Pilots all undertake the same basic training, but people flying off on their summer holidays this year in an Airbus A320 might be a little nervous if they knew the pilot had only trained on a Cessna.”

Howard challenged employers to look at what they were actually getting for their money. “You shouldn’t think it’s not your money because you aren’t paying the Apprenticeship Levy. You will still be out of pocket if you have to fill the skills gaps left by training providers and pay for the wastage and refits created by unskilled workers.”

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He added that the regulatory compliance ‘tick box’ culture that dominates construction-related professions had forced skills down to the level of basic competence rather than focussing on higher skill levels that can contribute to better performing buildings.

“As a result, there is a surfeit of short courses designed simply to get people into the industry, which has undermined our skills base. We have ended up with lots of people only capable of carrying out basic activities – the plumbing and gas sectors being the worst offenders. I believe in competency training and assessment, but a short programme or quick course is not the way to set up our future workforce. On the contrary, it is setting people up to fail.

BESA argues that, by investing in training at a higher level, employers can get the workforce they need for the right medium term price.

The association is working with building engineering employers to develop targeted Trailblazer apprenticeships in key technical sectors including: installation; service & maintenance; heating and plumbing; ductwork; ventilation hygiene; refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pumps; and has also started work on developing apprenticeships at higher and degree level.

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