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Manufacturers' viewpoint - March 2019

06 March 2019

Ian Moore highlights what the Fire Industry Association is doing to address competency, and asks for the industry's support.

TRAINING IS a key issue and there is a real focus on competency. The most popular word in the Hackitt report is competency and every discussion we have at all-party parliamentary level, Fire Sector Federation level talks about competency. But, it's like everything else in every other job, it's like saying something is good. It doesn't mean anything – you have to have a comparison with something.

Five years ago we started down the path of focusing on competency and this and it is what industry asked us to do. We always talk about raising the bar and professionalism, and I don't think people used the word competency too much in the early days, but now it is the buzz word.

We are all about raining the level of professionalism in the industry and we decided to go down the path, based on our members of putting a proper examination in place to really test people. Stronger and broader training – not just a one day course but three days that covers multi-facets. One of the issues we had to make a decision on is whether we continue to do the same Unit One, which everyone was really happy with and 8000 people a year passed these exams.

We are trying to get people back on track to learning stuff – not just attending and doodling on a pad. They have to listen and absorb.

The exams are pre-set and are OFQUAL registered and the trainers have no idea what questions are going to be put in from of the students at the end.

We have learnt that people are not really walking through these and not really learning enough before-hand, so we have put a lot of stuff in now to support them such as videos, showing previous courses, we do an access course now too.

We are still fighting with the industry who are complaining that it is too difficult and we have set the bar too high. The bar was set at exactly what industry asked us to do through a poll, so we are just responding to what we have been asked to do. We don't gain money out of this as we are not-for-profit, so this is not for financial reasons. We have to reinvest into re-sitting people, arranging classes, and we have to do the best we can do to try to get them through on the second or third attempt. But what you do have at the end of it, is a bona fide qualification. This is not just a paperwork exercise, this is a real qualification.

Part of my job, when I'm talking on the lobbying side to government in all departments, is lobbying about this definition of competency. We an define competency now in our industry with the passing of these exams and that is now the buzz word following the Hackitt report. So we are just going along the same path as what the report says. All we want is the support of the industry. We have invested millions of pounds into this, over five years of effort and our guys working in different areas of training have put so many hours into making this happen that is is disheartening reading that people have been disappointed because we have set the bar too high because we truly believe we haven't.

If we can create that pull-through, like Gas Safe has with gas, and we can get people registered as Fire Safe – or whatever phrase we want to use – then we are starting to create that pull-through.

If we can get some of the professional organisations that look at tenders and designs of buildings and big contractors and builders, saying that they want the competency level to be a minimum of this, that is exactly what we are looking for.

It is unacceptable to have people that are not trained on site, and that is exactly what is happening at the moment, so again it is just a call for support.

Ian Moore is managing director of the Fire Industry Association. For more information, visit www.fia.uk.com