Future-proofing plumbing and heating must be a priority for both those entering the industry and those with established careers. One of the key challenges is competency on new technologies which, for many, requires training.
Paul Massey, Chairman of the CIPHE’s Industrial Associates Development Group, explores what considerations should be made when sourcing quality training.
Driven by legislative change, the plumbing and heating sector finds itself at the forefront of innovation. The low carbon programme in particular, alongside other advances, is one factor that has the potential to spark technological development. This, in turn, requires competent installation and maintenance of new products, for which training is key. Therefore, seeking quality support from an approved centre is incredibly important, for both budding and qualified engineers.
Unfortunately, the economic climate created by COVID-19 saw an influx of rogue trainers and fast-track courses in the plumbing and heating industry, which poses a threat to quality workmanship and ultimately the public. Unemployment rose to 4.9% in October 20201 and with more than 370,000 seeking employment, retraining in a new sector often became an attractive prospect.
However, the prevalence of rogue trainers and traders is concerning, as not only is competency important, it is also safety critical. Failure to correctly install and maintain heating and hot water systems could cause serious harm, from the risk of burns to scalding and life-threatening Legionella. Therefore, when seeking training, installers must remain vigilant and research whether online or in-person training is accredited.
Starting a career through an approved apprenticeship supplier or via approved college-based learning is encouraged for a practical career. The CIPHE recommends the level 3 domestic plumbing and heating technician apprenticeship (Standard) as a high-quality apprenticeship for those starting out. Alternative steppingstones could be the Kick Start programme or a Traineeship. However, these routes into plumbing and
heating rely on stronger industry awareness through schools’ career offices, which is something the CIPHE Industrial Associates are actively involved in.
The CIPHE also advocates for fully qualified engineers to continue learning. S/NVQ Level 3 (or equivalent), for example, is one way to gain deeper understanding of practical and theory. For skilled installers, CPD and ongoing development with recognised training providers is the way forward.
Why choose an Approved Training Centre?
Approved Training Centre (ATC) status is awarded to colleges or private training centres following assessment of qualifications, accreditations, and premises to ensure they meet specific requirements. There are currently 44 ATCs throughout the UK, approved by the CIPHE. As an ATC learner, individuals can benefit from CIPHE-approved training resources, career advice and engagement with leading plumbing and heating Industrial Associates. Additionally, students at ATCs can receive Trainee membership with the CIPHE free whilst they study depending on the ATC membership status.
During the pandemic, access to colleges and private training centres was challenging due to closures and social distancing guidelines. This meant a re-evaluation of their approach to teaching was required and learners can now benefit from an increase in digital training and resources. The CIPHE in particular has made one of its largest investments into digital resources in this time, which has helped to support more than 100 colleges.
Before and during the pandemic, the CIPHE has worked with several centres on the delivery of online lessons, including a programme on the basics of central heating systems with the East Kent College group. When learning theory, such as water and Building Regulations, digital resources have their own benefits. However, plumbing is a practical skill, and some learning needs to be hands-on.
Learning how to bend a piece of copper tube, for example, is easier in a workshop environment. Additionally, for course assessments a workshop setting helps to showcase capability. With this in mind, trainees are encouraged to consider whether online or in-person training best suits their position. Furthermore, when selecting a training programme and centre, always ensure that a training centre has been recognised by an awarding organisation, such as C&G, BPEC, EAL or LCL Awards.
Training through ATCs is fundamental for the future of plumbing and heating and is becoming more safety critical in line with evolving technology. To stamp out rogue training, it is important for trainees to know what resources are available to them. As a CIPHE member, access to support and guidance is ongoing and means that any training concerns can be resolved before they become an issue.
For more information about the CIPHE, or to become a member, please contact the team via email: email@example.com or call 01708 472791