The launch of a new apprenticeship and the recent publication of a European standard are expected to boost fire and security services. John Briggs reports

ON 22 February, the Fire and Security Trailblazer Apprenticeship was launched at the UBM offices on Blackfriars Road in London. Backed and assisted by the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA), British Security Industry Association (BSIA) and Fire Industry Association (FIA), the apprenticeship follows on in some respects from the Apprentices for Fire and Security initiative, which started in 2011.
 
It has taken 18 months of hard work by a number of people and organisations to bring this three year, Level 3 apprenticeship for both the fire and security industries to fruition – notably Pat Allen from Abel Alarm Co Ltd, Summit Skills, CSL, ECA, FIA, BSIA, and an impressive list of employers who have developed the processes and the outcomes of the apprenticeship. 
 
The standard for a fire emergency and security systems technician was developed by the following employers: Abel Alarm Co Ltd; Christie Alarm; AAI Security; CSL; Kings Security; Chubb Fire and Security; Secom; Amalgamated Ltd; Wessex Fire and Security; Banham; BDS Fire; Pointer Ltd; and Stanley Security Solutions.
 
Congratulations to all involved; it might seem that the days when almost anyone could install or maintain a fire or security system with little or no relevant qualifications are drawing to a close. The changes are definitely a good thing for the industries and also for those who use these systems. Whether the hard work of those previously mentioned bears any fruit is really now up to the rest of the fire and security industry and how they use this apprenticeship.
 
Apprenticeship facts
 
This is a three year apprenticeship with a Level 3 qualification at the end of the process, providing all the learning outcomes are met. By the end of it, the candidate will have satisfied the requirements for registration as Eng Tech by the Engineering Council. 
 
Some unique characteristics make the apprenticeship very interesting for the employers – the employer group has managed to ensure that:
 
· this apprenticeship is allocated the full amount of £18,000 for each learner 
· almost all of this funding goes to the employer 
· the learners will develop digital portfolios in line with various milestones
· at the end of the apprenticeship, there is a three part end test that includes:
 
  • an interview
  • a trade test
  • a knowledge test
What’s the process?
 
Broadly speaking, the new apprentice joins the company, the learning process is funded or partly funded by the apprenticeship, and at the end of the process the company has a qualified person.
 
The skills of that newly qualified person include the interconnection of equipment, programming, verifying performance/fault finding, testing and maintaining. 
 
Once qualified, the technicians will carry out planned jobs to install new systems, modify and maintain existing systems, and respond to callouts to repair faulty systems for which they will utilise their problem solving skills. 
 
A professional approach will be taken to customer service skills – including being presentable, tidy and respectful – as they can often find themselves working inside and outside customer homes, as well as inside and outside business premises. 
 
They must be able to work independently or as part of a team, and use their knowledge and skills to ensure that systems have been appropriately selected, installed and maintained to professional industry standards – often without any supervision. In addition, this must be done in a safe, efficient and economical manner. 
 
 
Every apprentice starts on the behaviours, as illustrated in the diagram above, then moves on to the core knowledge and skills, such as health and safety, commercial awareness, working safely and so on. This takes the apprentice to one of the four pathways, which are:
 
  • fire
  • security
  • fire and security
  • fire and emergency lighting
The core knowledge skills and behaviours are the same in every discipline, in every pathway. The pathways are the different systems, as listed above. These have been agreed by the participating companies to ensure that the apprentices are qualified in skills that mean something to the company and the part of the industry in which it works.
 
While doing the work over the course of the 36 months, the apprentice will keep a digital portfolio of work they have completed or assisted with, which may be submitted at various milestones. At the end of the process, the apprentice will have the end point assessment – the three point assessment outlined – and the result will be a Level three qualification.
 
Funding source
 
It is true that the money for the apprenticeships has to come from somewhere. In this case and most cases, the ‘government money’ actually comes from the Apprenticeship Levy, to which every company with an annual payroll in excess of £3 million will be contributing. If the penny hasn’t already dropped –companies that are interested in apprenticeships can have money to conduct them, or if preferred, offset the amount paid in the levy.
 
Those larger companies who are not interested in the apprenticeships will just pay the levy. Smaller companies with a smaller payroll will not pay the levy, but will be able to receive the same amount for any of their apprentices on the programme. This will allow all companies to have apprentices, but with the financial burden being borne by the larger companies.
 
The future
 
The participating companies have all worked hard to get this trailblazer apprenticeship approved and the financing for the apprenticeship rated as highly as possible, including going through an appeals process. In reality, the success or otherwise of this new apprenticeship will rest with those in the industries who put people onto the apprenticeship to claim the funding and to move both their companies and their industries forward into the future. 
 
Raising standards in any industry is generally done by the industry or, where this fails, by standards or regulation. The manned guarding part of the security industry had several attempts to raise the bar, but in the end, the government in the form of the Security Industry Authority (SIA) began regulating the industry. In this process, led by the SIA, the industry had little say, as the SIA decided on the qualifications and the eligibility of candidates, and licensed those who met those standards and qualifications. This serves as an example to other industries, to which it can be said: ’Do it yourself, or have it done to you’. 
 
It is very pleasing to see that the systems side of the fire and security industries have had the foresight to do it themselves. The trailblazer they have set up is a good one: assessed at Level 3, it works for the industry in the way the industry works, but it does depend on the way the rest of the industry sees it and uses it. As Pat Allen said in his presentation to the industry: ‘It’s over to you now’.
 
European standard
 
BS EN 16763: 2017: Services for Fire Safety Systems and Security Systems has recently been published. Established by CEN and CENELEC, it specifies the minimum requirements for service providers as well as the competencies, knowledge and skills of their responsible staff charged with the planning; design; installation; commissioning; verification; handover; or maintenance of fire safety or security systems, regardless of whether these services are supplied on site or remotely. This European standard is applicable to services for:
 
  • fire safety systems, including but not limited to, fire detection and fire alarm systems, fixed firefighting systems, and smoke and heat control systems
  • security systems including, but not limited to, intruder and hold-up alarm systems, access control systems, external perimeter security systems and video surveillance systems
  • a combination of such systems, including those parts of an alarm transmission system for which the service provider has contractually accepted responsibility
Social alarm systems and alarm receiving centres are not included. This standard is applicable regardless of project size and the service provider’s organisational structure and size. 
 
These are the main points about the training or standard of staff:
 

a) Role A manager/decision maker: the person’s ability can be demonstrated by realising three systems in the declared services in the last five years and can be further demonstrated by Level 5 of the European Qualifications Framework [EQF] within the declared framework.

b) Role B self-manager/supervisor: the person’s ability can be demonstrated by realising three systems in the declared services in the last three years and can be further demonstrated by Level 4 of the European Qualifications Framework [EQF] within the declared framework.

c) Role C staff fulfilling assigned tasks: the requirements of having knowledge of the facts, principles, processes and general concepts in the declared services as well as the ability to select and apply basic methods, tools, materials and information that can be demonstrated by Level 3 of the European Qualifications Framework [EQF] within the declared framework.

Note that the roles of a), b) and c) could be carried out by the same person.
 
Well done to everyone for the Fire and Security Level 3 Trailblazer Apprenticeship. Everyone who completes the apprenticeship will meet the requirement of the new standard (BS EN 16763: 2017), which as an engineer/ technician/operator is a Level 3 qualification. Probably for the first time therefore, the UK is ahead of the curve, rather than well behind it. 
 
Whether we are required by Europe or by our own government to adhere to the standard in two years’ time rather depends on the eventual Brexit deal and where we go from there. Good luck with the standard and with the Fire and Security Level 3 Trailblazer Apprenticeship! 
 
Further details of the apprenticeship can be found at: www.gov.uk/government/publications/apprenticeship-standard-fire-emergency-security-systems-technician 
 
John Briggs is head of training and fire risk services at the FPA 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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