Rise in plumbing courses fails to address the skills gap

The industry is being flooded by trainees with basic plumbing qualifications rather than the higher skills needed to address the skills gap, according to the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA).

It has criticised a number of training providers for promoting lower cost plumbing courses to employers at the expense of the wider scoped building services apprenticeships and has urged employers to set their sights higher and get “two apprentices for the price of one”.

Many colleges promote plumbing short courses because they are cheaper to deliver, but employers receive far better value for money if they enrol their staff on more technically demanding training such as the new Trailblazer apprenticeships or an installer, craftsperson and service & maintenance course, rather than retraining them afterwards as BSE Installers, according to BESA’s Director of Training, Tony Howard.

He added that the regulatory compliance ‘tick box’ culture that dominates construction-related professions had forced skills down to the level of basic competence rather than focusing on higher skill levels that can contribute to better performing buildings.

“I believe in competency training and assessment, but a short programme or quick course is not the way to set up our future workforce. On the contrary, it is setting people up to fail,” said Mr Howard.

BESA argues that, by investing in training at a higher level, employers can get the workforce they need for the right medium term price.

BESA is working with building engineering employers to develop targeted Trailblazer apprenticeships in key technical sectors including: installation; service & maintenance; heating and plumbing; ductwork; ventilation hygiene; refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pumps; and has also started work on developing apprenticeships at higher and degree level.


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