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GETSI gets going

GETSI gets going

23rd January 2018

GETSI gets going

This Monday, January 22nd 2018, the GETSI inquiry into gas engineer training standards reached another vital stage on the road to publication. During an evidence session held at Portcullis house, experts shared their views on the problems underlying unsatisfactory training standards and how to raise them. The session was hosted by Luke Pollard MP and Barry Sheerman MP and chaired by Chris Bielby, Chairman of the Gas Safe Trust. Among the key topics disscued in the session were the following:

·         Creating a level playing field for training criteria

·         Balance between theory based training content and practical content

·         Routes to registration- examine the existing avenues to becoming a gas engineer

·         ‘No fail’ policy- should the number of time an assessment can be taken limited?

·         Mandatory minimum for length of training?

·         Degree of separation between training provided and assessment

·         Identification of key documents providing normative guidance

·         Better data- How can we ensure data on incidents is improved to feedback into training?

 

There was a broad consensus on issues negatively affecting the training provided to new entrants into the industry:

·         Fractured institutional responsibilities

Currently, there are many institutions involved without sufficiently clear delineation of tasks and duties. The fact that many institutions are involved also means that no single institution is accountable for overall training in the industry

·         Complex market composition

It is enormously difficult, even under benevolent political circumstances, to effectively regulate an industry where sole trades make up 80% of gas engineers, with the remaining 20% attributable to very few, very large organisations. Any set of rules and regulations has to take account of the impact on sole traders as well as large corporations. This makes striking the right balance very challenging.

·         Gender Balance

The Gas industry is still seen as a predominantly male field, with one participant confirming that 99.8% of registered gas engineers are indeed male. Attracting more women to enter the industry was consensually identified as one of the core challenges for years to come.

·         Demographic challenge

There is currently an entire generation of highly skilled and experienced gas engineers, most of them trained through high quality apprenticeships, that will reach retirement age within the next 10-15 years. This will lead to significant skills shortages for people with a ‘holistic’ understanding of gas engineering work.

·         Routes to registration

The current system offers dual route approach to becoming a gas engineer, through short training courses and ACS accreditation or through the longer route via an apprenticeship. While supporters argue that short courses provide a short way into the industry with previous relevant experience, opponents state that ACS training courses fail to adequately prepare gas engineers and that this particular route has been abused in recent years as it was never meant to become a pathway.

The underlying problem is that gas engineers going through an extensive apprenticeship have to compete with engineers trained through a short course. As there is no graduation of qualification as such, making it impossible for consumers to differentiate, this did and does trigger a ‘race to the bottom’ as one participant called it.

·         Incident data

Better, comprehensive data on incidents would allow conclusions to be drawn on who caused incidents (anonymised of course), based on the level of training they received, years of experience and type of employment (sole trader or employee at large organisation).

This data could be fed back into the design, assessment and supervision of training courses. In this way, safety vulnerabilities, indicated by frequency of incidents, could be emphasised more during training.

All the above issues were identified and discussed as preventing the creation of a genuine level playing field for gas engineers, the designated objective of the inquiry.

The session then entered into a lively discussion of ways to remedy these identified issues, which will be written up in a separate document. Please also find a link to the attendee briefing for the session in this folder.