A first for industry training

Trend Controls Systems Ltd and Apprenticeship Training Ltd (ATL) have developed, and are now jointly delivering, the UK’s first ever qualification for building controls technicians.

The level 3 NVQ Diploma in ‘Installing Building Energy Management Systems’ is awarded by EAL and endorsed by SummitSkills – the sector skills council for the building services engineering industry. It is the only nationally recognised award specifically designed for those wishing to embark on a career in BEMS design, installation and commissioning.

The BEMS Diploma became available at the start of this year and complies with the regulatory arrangements laid down in the government’s newly introduced Qualifications & Credit Framework (QCF). Involving a combination of on and off-the-job training, it requires completion of a series of knowledge and performance units. The former are done at college and are the equivalent of the old technical certificate element of an apprenticeship. The performance units are carried out in the workplace and require the learner to demonstrate that they have the practical skills to apply the knowledge they have gained.

Trend’s Learning and Development Manager, Phil Prosser, is in no doubt about the significance of the new BEMS Diploma: “The previous lack of a proper qualification in building controls has deterred people from entering the industry, which has led to skill shortages. Until now the only study options available to them have been general courses leading to technical certificates in electrical or building services technology, parts of which had no relevance to our sector. In contrast, the college course element of the new diploma has been precisely tailored to aid subsequent workplace learning by focusing on the underpinning knowledge required by a BEMS engineer. This was made possible through close cooperation between Trend and ATL and, in particular, by ATL’s willingness to listen to the needs of our industry.”

New recruits

The first people to gain the diploma will almost certainly come from the latest group to join Trend’s award-winning ‘Attitude’ Advanced Apprenticeship scheme. They have already started their college studies at two of ATL’s regional centres, where they will spend all of the first ten weeks. Their on-the-job training and assessment will be done either with Trend or one of its system suppliers, with the whole of the diploma programme completed in around 30 months.

Nick Hayward, Managing Director of ATL, believes that the basic structure of the BEMS Diploma course will prove important to its success: “Both we and Trend were very keen that the course should begin with an intensive period of study, since the trainees would then be an asset to their employers as soon as they entered the workplace. They will be able to make a worthwhile contribution immediately, rather than getting in the way and only being capable of menial tasks. One consequence of this is that they are less likely to drop out.”

Testing competence

The EAL Level 3 NVQ Diploma in BEMS is made up of 18 knowledge and performance units. The topics these cover include health and safety, environmental legislation and technology, overseeing and organising the work environment, system planning, preparation and installation, construction of control panels, system inspection, testing and commissioning and diagnosis and correction of electrical faults.

The final unit to be undertaken involves a holistic assessment of occupational competence where learners have to demonstrate that they have the knowledge, understanding and skills to perform the job of a BEMS engineer, safely and in accordance with approved industry and technical standards and working practices.

All 18 units must be completed to achieve the 125 credits needed to be awarded the BEMS Diploma. It has 854 guided learning hours.

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