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Installers: would you support a level 3 NVQ in renewable technology?

Posted by Ged Ennis on 14 October 2013 at 10:34 am

Five years ago I approached our local college about developing a level 3 NVQ in renewable technology. My company has worked with them for the past 20 years, taking a variety of apprentices through a range of building-related trade qualifications. I knew the staff well and thought would do something if they would.

One of the primary drivers was to include an element in the NVQ which related to customer service. I wanted the trainees to be educated in the importance of customer service and highlight the fact that a good tradesperson is your best sales person.

I had in mind a method of combining the skill sets of a plumbing and electrical apprenticeship and training in new technologies so that we had an engineer who was specifically trained for the work we do. As an example, there is no need for our installers from a plumbing background to have to work through the NVQ units for bathroom installation, or a trainee from an electrical background to train in alarm installation.

For one reason or another, the process got delayed. The college were moving to a brand new state of the art facility and perhaps that distracted us. About two years ago we revisited the conversations and looked again at the possibilities of developing a specific apprenticeship for a renewables installer.

The major stumbling block appeared to be that the two current trade bodies, plumbing and electrical, both saw their qualifications as sacrosanct and as such it was difficult to find a pathway which would meet the needs of both.

We continued to plug away and earlier this year we identified a suitable pathway incorporating a series of existing units that could be approved; this does not require the development of a new qualification, simply an extension to the current “rules of combination” which would then meet the needs of our industry.

Recently we met with Summit Skills. They said that they would support our plan if we could gain enough industry support from the renewables sector. They advised that their research indicated that the industry didn’t back our claim and that an NVQ specifically in Renewables wouldn’t gain support. My view is that they asked the wrong people, and my initial enquiries to companies in the industry have been very positive.

The course we have developed uses the existing plumbing route to level 2 with additional electrical and renewables units to complete level 3. At level 3, trainees will be required to gain competency in a minimum of two renewable-specific technology units, for example solar PV and heat pumps.

From an employer’s point of view I believe that there is a great need for such a qualification if our industry is to develop and meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. I  appreciate that up-skilling of plumbers and electricians will continue to be required in the short term. However, as the renewables industry becomes mainstream then the demand for renewable technologies engineers will become even more crucial to its continued success.

The need for traditional qualifications in electrical, plumbing and heating will continue, and the proposed new framework should not be seen as a threat to those traditional trades: rather an enhancement and an alternative route that a young person can take.

Burnley College is committed to developing this new framework, and are looking to work closely with industry to ensure it meets the standards required both for the present and future. The college has the people with the skills and facilities to deliver it and the drive to ensure that the standards of education are of the highest calibre.

As an industry we need to confirm our interest to the College and to SummitSkills now, so that the framework can be approved in time to start by September 2014 with the first cohort of qualified Environmental Technology Engineers in the workplace by 2017. This is our opportunity to have a real input into the qualification we so urgently need for our industry. If you support this initiative, or have an comments, please email me or comment below this blog.

About the author: Ged Ennis is operations at The Low Carbon Energy Company in Burnley

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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