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IoR blazes a trail

The Institute is working with employers and the government to develop a new apprenticeship specifically for rac engineers. Secretary Miriam Rodway reports

For the first time there is an opportunity for the industry to take a lead in setting its own standards for apprenticeships for individuals working as refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump technicians.

After years of dissatisfaction with NVQ diplomas and apprenticeships, a major change in how these are developed and managed is taking place. The Department for Business Innovation and Skills has recently opened up a Trailblazer programme for sectors, such as rac, where there is a need for an overhaul of the apprenticeship scheme. Current rac apprenticeships are part of a building engineering services framework, and employers have told us that they are worried that the specific content relevant to refrigeration has become diluted.

The government wants professional institutes such as the IoR and employers to develop, own and manage all future apprenticeships to ensure that relevant professional standards are used. The next round of applications to create new apprenticeships will be this summer and the IoR, encouraged by the member trade associations and institutions of the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Board (ACRIB), plans to make an application to develop a new RAC Engineering Technician National Apprenticeship Framework, which will also cover heat pumps.

Changing industry

“This new IOR-led rac Engineering Technician Apprenticeship Framework should be designed to take into account the challenges of new technologies, changing legislation and environment pressures as well as addressing the need for a sound understanding and application of rac and heat pump engineering principles,” said John Skelton, the IoR council member who is chairing the new education committee’s working group.

 We are looking for employers of apprentices – both very small and medium-sized organisations – to work with us. If our application is successful, a new Apprenticeship Standard based on industry specified qualifications, knowledge, evidence and behaviours will be developed over the next few months with input from the whole industry including training providers, current students and employers.

The IOR executive council has formed a new education and training steering group to lead this work. Its first priority will be to identify members who want to help develop this new industry-owned and recognised apprenticeship framework that will provide:

n An industry support route for new entrants to achieve the right level of skills;

n A flexible qualification that can adapt to technological challenges and industry needs;

n Continuous professional development for those in the industry, which could lead to professional engineering recognition with the Engineering Council.

In due course, other education related issues will also be addressed such as:

n A campaign for recruitment to encourage new people to the industry;

n Clearer signposting of existing training and qualifications;

n Wider range of CPD for IoR members;

n Higher level qualifications, eg for project engineers, graduate conversion and degrees.

Meanwhile a working group of the IoR marketing committee is steering a project to provide some basic understanding of refrigeration principles to schoolchildren in a fun and interactive way. They will be updating and extending the IoR Fantastic Fridges website that was first launched in our centenary year, 1999. This website will feature exercises, interactive games, videos and social media links all themed around refrigeration. Watch out for news of this new project over the coming months.

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