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Blazing the trail

The pioneering Trailblazer scheme, which will set new industry-created parameters for cooling apprentices, has taken a significant step forward. Miriam Rodway reports

The Institute of  Refrigeration’s Education Committee has been encouraging and supporting the work of a group of employers over the past year to prepare a new Trailblazer Apprenticeship Standard for our sector.

The Employers group is made up of large and small employers from industrial, commercial, manufacturing and end-users, across all applications. Their proposed Standard was submitted to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills for approval in February.

The new Standard will help to ensure that future apprentices can meet the challenges of working in our diverse and ever-changing sector, and their learning and experience is matched to industry specified needs.

Some of the principles of the new proposed Standard are shown below:

What is in the new Standard?

In just two pages, the Standard summarises the core knowledge, skills and behaviours that need to be gained by apprentices to be considered competent in an RACHP engineering technician role such as service engineer and installation engineer. These are defined as follows:

1 Knowledge of legislation; regulations and standards; underpinning principles; data analysis; system fundamentals; and sustainability concepts;

2 Skills in safe working practices; control circuit application;, mechanical operations; application of mathematical principles; and sustainable system operation.

3 Key behaviours and attitudes: safety consciousness; strong work ethic; logical problem-solving; focus on quality; personal responsibility; communications; adaptability; and self-motivation.

Why ‘Engineering Technician’?

There was a lot of debate about what is understood by the titles Engineer and Technician and the fact that there was no common interpretation. The group was guided by the Engineering Council grade of membership for those working at this level, which is known as Engineering Technician (EngTech).

By describing the occupation as RACHP Engineering Technician, it will allow our sector to gain national recognition across all engineering professions in the UK.

It will encourage those completing their apprenticeship to consider registering with the Engineering Council and conforming with requirements to keep their knowledge updated.

The title can also encompass a wide range of individual job titles chosen by employers and areas of work carried out by individuals within their job.

What vocational qualification level will the apprenticeship be set at?

Employers agreed that setting the standard for a full Apprenticeship at Level 3 most accurately reflected the high levels of responsibility of those working in RACHP, particularly when related to other comparable trades.

They are considering introducing Traineeships, designed for those who cannot gain relevant employment experience or school leavers who cannot work on site due to age restrictions.

What qualifications will be required for the new Apprenticeship?

Because none of the existing qualifications can fully meet industry requirements, a new set of qualifications and assessments at Level 2 and Level 3 will be needed.

The C&G 7189 could be a good starting point for knowledge and practice, but more on workplace evidence and assessment will be needed to bring this up to the required standard.

All Apprentices will need to gain a recognised F-gas qualification as part of their assessment.

How has the Standard been developed?

A team of 14 employers have led the project, but many more have contributed in commenting on consultations and adding their views. Trade associations such as the BRA and professional bodies such as the IOR and CIBSE have been closely involved.

The IOR published a paper, by past president John Ellis, in October that was widely debated and outlines some of the potential requirements of apprentices.

What happens next?

The government will respond to the employers group by mid-March. If successful, then the detailed work of building a full assessment package based on the proposed Apprenticeship Standard will begin. Input from awarding bodies and colleges will be critical at this stage.

Organisations such as City & Guilds may, in parallel, start developing new industry-focused qualifications to meet the Apprenticeship standard. Those on current Apprenticeship frameworks will continue on their current programme.

The new Apprenticeship will need to be in place before 2017 to meet new government funding regimes.

See www.ior.org.uk/trailblazer for the latest news or to get involved in the next stage

 

 

See www.ior.org.uk/trailblazer for the latest news or to get involved in the next stage

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