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ECS updates for sector-specific competence

Earlier this year the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) published the Industry Skills Plan for the UK Construction Sector 2021-2025. This was a wide-ranging document covering a number of vital considerations for the future skills of the workforce, including routes into industry, access and opportunities, skills for a modernised industry and the competence of the workforce.

On the subject of competence, it was noted the focus would be on the development of sector-specific competence frameworks, “ensuring both point in time, ongoing continuous professional development (CPD) and revalidation of competence” for individuals would be covered as part of the work under the Competence Steering Group emerging from the Hackitt Review, the independent review set up after the tragedy at Grenfell.

The CLC’s Industry Skills Plan highlights the need to:

  • Develop higher technical qualifications to support progression
  • Improve and embed higher standards of health and safety practices within the industry
  • Modernise standards and qualifications to deliver to skills our industry needs in the future

One of the working groups under the Competence Steering Group, Working Group 2 for Installers, has seen representation from across building services, including from the Joint Industry Board (JIB) and Electrotechnical Certification Scheme (ECS) to discuss how personnel certification schemes such as ECS, as a partner scheme of CSCS, can play a part in the verification and checking of the competence structures and standards set by industry.

As part of preparation for the development of these frameworks across the different occupations covered by ECS, the team have been working with relevant industry stakeholders to update the ECS systems and standards in line with the recommendations of Working Group 2 and Dame Judith Hackitt, the British Standard Institution’s overarching framework for building safety competence (BSI Flex 8670), as well as considering the need for modernisation and raising standards across the industry. This has included:

  • CPD – Introduction of a CPD recording systems for ECS card holders – this launched in July 2021
  • Competence – Establishment of a Competence and Skills Group within the CSCS Partner Scheme Forum, covering those schemes that have started to develop sector-specific competence framework as part of the initial pilot sectors
  • Safety – Update to the ECS Health, Safety and Environmental Awareness assessment to include more focus on fire safety and compartmentation – this came in from April 2021
  • Collaboration – Industry collaboration through Working Group 2 on the development of an updated standard for fire safety in buildings, a range of training materials and standardised assessment which can be utilised across industry
  • Standards – Standardisation and mapping of apprenticeship, qualification, and training standards across a number of occupations and disciplines
  • Verify – Development and promotion of ECS Check for verifying workforce composition through the supply chain as part of overarching competence, as well as schemes such as ECS Registered Electrician, which include requirements for CPD and a Code of Professional Practice

Jay Parmar, JIB CEO, explained: “It was in Dame Judith Hackitt’s ‘Building a Safer Future’ report that ECS was recognised as an exemplar for the sector in terms of personnel certification and identifying individual competence in the workforce. We are continuing to work with industry stakeholders to create a framework of competence based on the recommendations set out by Working Group 2 and representing the best interests of industry in raising the bar. ECS as a scheme is continuously updating to enhance value for both employers and card holders, use greater digital resources for improved efficiency, and enable the necessary verification and checking of this standard for competence.”

The JIB has also been involved in key activities to incentivise apprenticeship and craft training schemes, assisting employers with employment issues when taking on new recruits, and encouraging upskilling and providing CPD grants through the JIB Skills Development Fund.

To find out more about how you can access the latest digital systems to manage your workforce’s certification, undertake remotely invigilated online health and safety assessments, and access competency and workforce composition reporting through the ECS online services, please go to ecscard.org.uk/employers.

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