Innovative plumbing training solution shortlisted for industry award

Dale Thomson

SNIPEF (Scotland and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation) Training Services (STS), working as a task group with nine of Scotland’s colleges, has been shortlisted in the category of Best Use of Technology in the Delivery of Plumbing Training by BPEC, which is set to hold its Annual Awards for Excellence 2021 on December 8.

STS subcontracts off-the-job training to 18 colleges across Scotland where around 850 apprentices are currently in training.

The pandemic-related lockdown and closure of colleges throughout the country presented the challenge of ensuring apprentices remained on track to complete their Plumbing & Heating (P&H) Modern Apprenticeship (MA).

Because apprentices were unable to enter college premises to undertake their theoretical/practical assessments in the SQA assessments rooms, STS approached the MA joint awarding bodies, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and the Scottish and Northern Ireland Joint Industry Board (SNIJIB), to explore alternative assessments (AA) procedures.

Dale Thomson, apprentice training manager for SNIPEF, explained, “First, we had to ensure any new assessments could be accessed by all apprentices from the safety of their own homes, so we decided to use Microsoft Forms as all apprentices have a Microsoft account. Second, with distance learning, we had to ensure that all apprentices had access to suitable IT equipment and were able to undertake assessments, so we worked with our subcontractors to facilitate this.”

Together the task group created 19 AAs with three variations each. The work ensured that when colleges were able to return, they only had to get apprentices up to date with their practical assessments.

Fiona Hodgson, chief executive of SNIPEF, said, “The clarity and determination with which the task group addressed the issue and rapidly developed an excellent alternative solution is a tribute to the professionalism of its members. It is gratifying to have been shortlisted for this award which, in its own way, underlines the importance of applying new technologies to a range of issues not only within the plumbing and heating sector but in the UK construction industry generally.”

Meanwhile, Iain Winnard, a recently qualified plumber from Argyllshire, has been shortlisted as Best Plumbing Apprentice by BPEC.

Nominated by STS, Iain (21) served his apprenticeship with Lochgilphead-based Blair Plumbing and Heating Solutions.

Dale Thomson said, “STS believes that Iain meets the criteria for this award for several reasons. During his time at Glasgow Clyde College he won the college nominated Apprentice of the Year Award supported by SNIPEF and was nominated for the Hammerman Award, which goes to a young engineer who has led a project which benefited both his company and the industry.

Iain Winnard

“Like many other apprentices, Iain had to adapt to working during the pandemic but has excelled, not only in achieving his Modern Apprenticeship qualification in Domestic Plumbing and Heating, but also in sharing and helping others to do the same by offering advice and support.

“Iain’s apprenticeship was impacted by Covid-19 and he had reduced work, was on furlough, and had to adapt to new online college teaching, before returning to work full time in June this year and completing his ACS Gas assessments to become a fully qualified plumber on 20 August 2021. During the latter period, Iain volunteered to do a week-long case study A Week in The Life of an Apprentice Plumber which was promoted by STS during Scottish Apprenticeship Week to extol the plumbing and heating industry, and to encourage more people to become plumbers, as well as encouraging more plumbing businesses to recruit apprentices.

“In addition he volunteered to be a speaker at SNIPEF’s first ever apprenticeship employer webinar ‘How to Recruit an Apprenticeship Plumber. This was attended by over 50 employers and Iain shared his apprenticeship journey, giving a talk on the benefits of recruiting plumbers, which was exceptionally well received.

“Iain is passionate about what he does and is willing to help the industry in any way he can. Based on all of these factors we believe he deserves to be recognised.”