With some industry insiders pointing out that the construction industry spends twice as much on litigation as it does on training, it is clear we need to improve our attitude to training provision in this country.
The building services industry has suffered and survived a series of hammer blows over the past decade, but to thrive in the future, we urgently need to attract the brightest and the best to the industry. That, in my view, means taking action on two main fronts:
- Boosting the image of the industry to improve people’s perception of it, and
- Raising skills standards.
Training and education can help us to meet both these objectives.
Changing perceptions starts with influencing youngsters at school through strong links between the building services industry and educational establishments, but it also means strengthening training in the sector to reflect the fact that we are a high level engineering discipline every bit as important as those professions traditionally seen as superior such as medics, lawyers and bankers.
The second front, raising skills standards, is equally important. There is a significant skill shortage of graduates coming from university with building services degrees and most consultants are now taking graduates with a mechanical degree and provide training on building services while they work for the consultancy practice.
The dearth of skilled individuals was also highlighted in the recent groundbreaking report by Sandy Leitch. Three years ago, the Government commissioned him to undertake an independent review of the UK’s long term skills needs. The final report of the Leitch Review of Skills, ‘Prosperity for all in the Global Economy – World Class Skills’, published late last year, shows that the UK urgently needs to raise achievements at all levels of skills and recommends that it commit to becoming a world leader in skills by 2020. This means doubling attainment at most levels of skill and the report says responsibility for achieving these ambitions must be shared between Government, employers and individuals.
Employers’ responsibility starts with providing training. And, in the case of enlightened companies at the forefront of technology, the reason for this is more than altruistic – after all, how will key people in the industry understand the pioneering developments they make unless they are told about them?
For example, the distinctive nature of many of Trox’s energy saving systems and the technical edge that it possesses mean that we must work that much harder to educate and inform our potential customers.
Our answer is the Trox Academy. Launched last year, the Academy is a novel industry-based training programme where concepts and ideas are discussed and demonstrated. Each training session comprises detailed technical briefings followed by a test or demonstration in the state-of-the-art Trox laboratories in Thetford, Norfolk.
As well as enabling us to gain a unique insight into what leading players in the industry think of our latest developments, the Trox Academy also helps us:
- Ensure our own employees reach a predetermined level of skill. Initially this applied to specific functions such as sales, but it is now being rolled out across the whole company as the scheme develops.
- Strengthen our already well-established and popular continuous professional development seminar programme.
Our aim is to inform Trox Academy participants of evolving systems, educate them in the theory and reasoning used by our engineers, and support and enforce these comments through practical demonstrations and tests.
A two-way exchange of views is paramount. Indeed, the Trox Academy mission statement was developed with this firmly in mind: “Exchanging knowledge and skills from research, system development and experience”.
Within the description of the system, we share first principles and the theory behind the thinking; we also provide useful design tips on each of the systems for use by the designer.
This innovation, coupled with the fact that participants get a chance to visit the laboratory to test and demonstrate the system in question, makes the whole training regime unique within the industry and has resulted in it already being nominated for two major industry awards.
The Trox Academy has so far attracted senior figures from 28 leading companies – isn’t it time we all took training more seriously?