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Get on board!

In 2015 we need to acknowledge why we have a skills shortage, and take steps to ensure both growth and competition backing are put in place, says Mark Forsyth

In a review of 2014, it would be folly to ignore the period since the SkillFRIDGE national final was held at The Skill Show in November 2013. Since then, we have been searching for one or many industry stakeholders to sponsor the national skill competition.

Because of a withdrawal of government funding, the Skill Show 2014 at the NEC did not feature refrigeration, and it was sadly missed by many colleges that previously entered into the competition. Construction Skills NI continued to host its own competition in May 2014.

Without a national competition, there remains no route for the best rac apprentices to demonstrate their skills on a national – and what could be an international – platform.

The skills shortage in our industry has been mentioned in so many articles, yet not one industry stakeholder has come forward or enquired about what is involved to be a national RAC competition organising partner.

To many, this typifies apathy for our industry.

Private training groups highlight the volume of F-gas training through their centres – in many ways, this is good news for the mature members of industry. It’s not surprising to hear that some colleges offering RAC level 2 & 3 courses continue to see intake diminish, thus resulting in tutor redundancies.

So in 2015 we should question why this is happening to our industry, and what can be done to ensure college apprenticeships grow, learners flourish to level 3 and are encouraged to enter skill competitions throughout the UK.

Future plans

Find a Future (findafuture.org.uk) brings together The Skill Show and Worldskills UK (WSUK) respectively, developing apprenticeship career opportunities and showcasing skills excellence in the UK.

We are still hoping either one or a group of sponsors will emerge very soon – for without a sponsor, the national SkillFRIDGE competition will not happen. Prospective sponsors and supporters should visit worldskillsuk.org  or contact me as soon as possible to be a part of running a competition.

The WSUK RAC training cycle started with four apprentices from the SKILLfridge 2013 competition. Gavin Murray (Montgomery Refrigeration NI) and Chris Bailie (BL Refrigeration NI) both represent South East Regional College Northern Ireland; their college tutor is Terry Nickels. Joseph Conroy (Trane UK) represents Eastleigh College – his tutor is Shaun Creech – and Ryan Unwin (Bruntwood Estates) represents The Manchester College; his tutor is Adam Smith.

The early part of 2014 involved two skill and performance development training events ahead  of a three-day selection event in June known as Squad UK selection.

Skill selection events are designed to identify an individual’s level of knowledge, skill and emotional maturity against an agreed Worldskills technical description and assessment model.

In the RAC Squad selection competition we presented all competitors with an industry challenge that requires efficient planning, work organisation and problem-solving across the areas of pipework fabrication, electrical installation, complete system testing prior to start-up (commissioning), refrigerant charging, efficient operation/set-up and refrigerant recovery.

In June 2014 we held a Squad UK selection event and on completion invited Chris Bailie, Joseph Conroy and Ryan Unwin to continue with focused training and assignments as part of Squad UK.

The Squad of three have embarked on six weeks of training from October through to the Team UK selection event to be held in May this year. The venue and date will be announced by WSUK shortly.

The outcome of the Team UK selection event in May this year will be that one individual attends two further competition performance training events (week commencing 8 June and 13 July) in order for them to represent the WSUK Team in refrigeration and air conditioning at the Worldskills International competition (11 to 16 August in Brazil).

Employers and college tutors are invited to observe WSUK training events. As you can imagine, the competitors feel valued when anyone takes the time to visit. We would appreciate a visit from any of our industry stakeholders as soon as possible. Where fitting and practical to do so, please also consider hosting a WSUK training event.

On behalf of Worldskills UK, our great thanks and appreciation is to HRP Group and the Flame Brazing Institute.

We wish you all a prosperous and innovative 2015. 

Mark Forsyth is Worldskills UK RAC training manager @racskills.If you would like to discuss getting involved, call 07831 377215

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