Following her recent appointment as head of education and training at the HVCA, Sarah Wicks, outlines some of the principal items on the sector's skills agenda
WHEREVER we turn in these environmentally conscious days, sustainability is there.
Indeed, the HVCA is already committed to raising members' awareness of all aspects of sustainability. By promoting them as experts in integrated energy systems, it seeks to enable them to take a holistic approach to the growing building services engineering needs of customers and clients.
It is hardly surprising, therefore, that helping members identify and benefit from the commercial opportunities presented by sustainability is central to HCVA's Education and Training Department's current remit.
In particular, the organisation is in the process of establishing the specific skills all members must have to provide sustainable solutions that will satisfy increasingly rigorous client demand.
Where necessary, HVCA is also facilitating the development of a robust training infrastructure. This will ensure the integration of these skills into the existing skills pool.
And the association is developing technology-specific training courses that will extend and enhance the competence of existing members of the workforce.
In recent years, there has been a ready supply of suitably qualified potential recruits to building services engineering, school leavers and adults, at both craft and technician level.
Yet the level of training currently being undertaken continues to be less than half of that required to ensure the existence of a skills pool sufficient to meet present and future needs.
At the same time, the UK population is ageing. More than 70% of the 2020 working population is already over the age of 16. And working lives are becoming longer. This increases the need for the skills already acquired by existing workers to be regularly refreshed and updated.
Most hvacr employers have already come to the conclusion that introducing funding arrangements that truly meet the needs of the sector is key to reversing this unsatisfactory state of affairs.
They further believe the solution lies in the introduction of a training fund with statutory backing. This would ensure all employers played their part in enhancing and replenishing the sector's skills base. They could do this individually, or by contributing financially on an industry-wide basis.
During the past two years HVCA has consulted with all interests parties across building services engineering, including electro-technical, plumbing, air conditioning and refrigeration, equipment manufacture, heating, ventilation and ductwork design, installation and maintenance.
Consensus appears to be emerging on the real benefits a statutory training fund would deliver. HVCA is committed, therefore,
to brokering the introduction of such an arrangement across the industry.
A further training issue has developed during the past decade. Devolution has led to a patent imbalance in new-entrant training funding in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, compared with England.
Progress on this issue has already been made in Wales and Northern Ireland during the past 18 months, and further improvements across all three nations remain high on our list of priorities.
Last, but not least, HVCA will continue to support SummitSkills, the building services engineering sector skills council, in three ways:
Mapping actual and potential skills needs of the sector
Developing strategies that will ensure that these are met in the short, medium and long term
Ensuring that all available training funding is allocated appropriately and effectively
Sarah Wicks was appointed HVCA head of education and training
with effect from August 1 2007.
She succeeds Tony Thomas, who
was appointed professor of work-based learning at London South
Bank University on the same date.
See page 19 for further details.
Action On Skills:
One of the key objectives in the HVCA Strategic Plan is: “to ensure the development of appropriate skills and competences to satisfy the short and long-term requirements of the industry”.
To achieve this objective, HVCA is committed to:
Convincing members that skills gaps restrict their ability to take advantage of
emerging commercial opportunities
Matching vocational education and training provision at every level of the workforce to the needs of employers and the industry
Increasing levels of new-entrant training to meet present and future industry
Ensuring that the business case for training is understood by all stakeholders
Establishing training funding arrangements that meet the needs of the sector, and which are fair and equitable to all parties
Ensuring that the sourcing of labour through agencies and from overseas does not permanently undermine the industry’s skills base