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Driving up standards, yet driving down dead ends along the way

From zeroes to real heroes, Paul Singh finds solace in an engineering community who’ve risen to legislative challenges

I am rather bemused and concerned with the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) funding regime at a time when industry is engulfed with new initiatives to improve competence and standards.

Those present at a recent RAC Industry Interest Group meeting may remember SummitSkills setting out the detail of its discussions with the LSC.

SummitSkills is trying to obtain funding to support the industry in the acquisition of the mandatory F-Gas qualification. And good luck to it in chasing funding, but my experience leads me to question how the LSC operates.

The council is more of a zero than a hero to this industry.

Despite pursuing LSC funding for well over a year my hopes have been dashed - I came real close, but was not granted funding because funding had been stopped!

Perhaps I should have expected it, but I was convinced that funding would actually happen!

Yet, my troubles aside, what is more concerning is that even though I have tried alternative methods of accessing this lucrative LSC fund, I was informed that certain colleges had their funding stopped without notice.

This is a crime for an industry that so badly needs support in an unfavourable economic climate.

Despite the real zeroes at LSC, my congratulations must go to some real heroes: engineers who’ve been put through their paces via the F-Gas training and assessment programmes.

The engineers - all self-employed small business owners of up to 28 years in the industry - put themselves forward for a 3-day programme to achieve the F-Gas award.

Although apprehension gripped them on the first day there was motivation and eagerness to learn.

The main focus of training was indeed the much-mentioned pressure-enthalpy diagrams along with energy efficiency and the implications of current legislation.

Reluctance was in evidence once the importance of the P-h chart was discussed but once applied they realised that the theoretical principles of the basic refrigeration cycle hinged exactly on this chart; and their understanding was amplified as they were superheated, saturated and eventually sub-cooled.

A new experience for the engineers was the GOLA test: none of them were looking forward to this aspect of the assessment but upon coaching they sat their tests. In fact, due to unforeseen administrative and technical hitches they had to sit the tests twice.

They passed nonetheless and my congratulations go to the engineers who told me they gained a sense of real achievement and pride from their efforts.

The practical assessment, too, engendered the proverbial pats on the back, particularly as they were surprised at the thoroughness, and the levels of competence, required.

I will add that no matter how good an engineer you believe yourself to be, having sat the test myself this is no walk-over. As one engineer commented, “The test made me think of all aspects of refrigeration - and even after 24 years in the trade I learned a lot.

“The practical test was so thorough that there should be no issue with performing all the required safety procedures - and record keeping is a must.

“I’m very proud to say I hold City & Guilds 2079. It gives me more confidence and will stand me in good stead in work for my clients and customers.”

City & Guilds 2079 is a very rich qualification and I can only pass on the comment of an observer/employer during my sessions.

He said: “The general level of satisfaction of those who passed the exam was an example of its value to them.

“As an observer and employer I would say that those that pass this course will emerge a better engineer and will have a qualification of real value.”

Paul Singh is a refrigeration training consultant. He can be reached on email: pslall@tiscali.co.uk or on his mobile: 07734 926 747