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Apprentice work aired at ST19 Glasgow

Where, do you imagine, is the largest provider of fire and security training in the UK?

It’s New College Lanarkshire, David Scott, curriculum and quality leader at NCL told the ST19 Glasgow conference yesterday.

As he told the morning event, Scotland has five to ten per cent of companies in the UK; yet NCL has about half of the total of apprentices in fire and security in the UK. That programme is the largest that NCL offers, larger than better-known courses such as IT, electrical, construction and beauty. And there lies one of the problems the fire and security installation sector in general has faced, that NCL evidently has taken steps to overcome; how to make fire and security known to school leavers, let alone attractive enough to make them want to take a three-year apprenticeship in it, and do something about the (long-running) skills shortage.

“So how did we get there?” David asked. “I suppose it’s obvious. We really do engage with industry as much as possible.” That goes for the installers who take on apprentices, who typically attend college one day a week; manufacturers such as CSL, Texecom and Hikvision, who provide equipment worth thousands of pounds for apprentices to work on; and the fire and security industry, and industry generally. NCL apprentices regularly attend and win at the Engineers of Tomorrow competition at IFSEC at London Docklands every June; and NCL plans to put fire and security in front of even more people at the general trade contest World Skills UK, in November at the NEC Birmingham.

Earlier, David talked the ST19 conference audience through the three years of practical and theoretical work that leads to apprentices as ‘real live working engineers for your organisation’, able to use testing equipment, fault-find, and survey, risk-assess, design, commission, and maintain a system. David described one practical piece of work by apprentices, in 2015; a local YMCA was broken into. The Glasgow-based installer Boston Networks arranged for CCTV kit, and students designed, planned and installed, commissioner and handed over a CCTV system with cloud storage; doing all that work with little or no supervision. “I honestly have never seen a more motivated group of students than when they are doing charity work,” David recalled.

The UK does not have a formal qualification for adult apprentices looking to enter fire and security. Hence in 2017 NCL began a pre-apprentice fire and security course; a one-year, full-time course. NCL put students through three days a week of installation and theory, towards a City & Guilds level two fire and security qualification. Most of those taking it were offered full-time modern apprenticeship employment at the end. Now that ‘pre-apprenticeship’ in its second year has 80 taking it, and again with prospects of most getting full-time jobs afterwards; a sign of how skilled engineers are in short supply.

More in the June 2019 print issue of Professional Security magazine.

Picture by Mark Rowe; ST19 conference chairman Mike White opening the morning.


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