Training as the route to business success

BMS, BEMS, controls, BCIA, Building Controls Industry Association
The contribution of training to success — Steve Harrison

Steve Harrison explains why it is becoming increasingly more important to consider training as an essential part of every business.

The past few years have been challenging for the whole construction industry but the 2013 BCIA market information service figures indicate an encouraging trend for the UK controls market. It showed a rise of 3.5% from 2012, with the total value of the product supplied into the market showing an increase of just over 12%.

Although it is fair to say that the market has still not recovered to its 2008 peak, these figures indicate that it is growing steadily in the right direction and that the controls sector is steadily gaining lost ground.

The rising market is undoubtedly a result of the number of companies that see building controls as a means to save energy, but what is also encouraging is the continuing trends towards an increase in the amount of building-services capital equipment incorporating on-board technology.

Another positive sign for the controls industry was the recognition in the new Part L 2013 Compliance Guide of BS EN15232, which offers a methodology for grading building-energy-management systems and helps to support the case for building controls and BEMS as being central to energy efficiency in buildings.

This is all good news for the industry. However, with that good news comes a note of caution because, like any other part of the building-services industry, in order to react to what is undoubtedly an increase in demand, we need the right skills and the right people.

When the economy took a turn for the worst one of the many areas to suffer was training, and a number of companies ceased to take on apprentices due to lack of available budget. This has proved to be a very short-sighted approach for the many businesses which are now suffering the consequences.

The heart of business success — training.

The controls industry, on the other hand, has always prided itself on raising standards and professionalism in the sector, which is, perhaps, one of the reasons behind the steady growth which we are now experiencing. Rather than cutting back on training, the BCIA introduced the NVQ Diploma in Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) to provide a dedicated route for apprentices to enter the industry and benefit from workplace learning and experience which is backed up by classroom instruction.

The recent launch of the Building Controls Professional Assessment (BCPA) in conjunction with National Electrotechnical Training (NET), took this one step further by providing an Assessment of Occupational Competence (AOC), which ensures that every apprentice is assessed not just on their knowledge, but also on their skill and professionalism.

This is an example of companies working together to improve the industry and provide a means for it to grow. But it is also about ensuring that we have the skills that we need to be successful in the future. In some respects it is about encouraging new people into the industry, but we shouldn’t forget the people that we already have because ongoing professional assessment is just as important for people who have been in the industry for some time. This is one of the reasons why the BCPA will also be used as a method for assessing existing operatives in our sector as well as for current controls engineers to demonstrate their proficiency.

This isn’t just about giving the controls industry a huge pat on the back. I believe that the message is far more serious than that because we cannot ignore the need for training.

The BCIA launched the new assessment at The Shard in London. It was a carefully-chosen venue, because buildings like The Shard represent UK construction at its best and demonstrate the high standards of design, construction and delivery that our industry should aspire to.

But delivery of this sort of project depends on many factors; perhaps one of the most important is that it relies on installers to do their jobs to the highest standards, and they must be able to do this safely, effectively and competently.

The only way that they can do this is to be trained effectively and to the highest robust standards — and it is up to us to work together to achieve this.

Steve Harrison is president of the Building Controls Industry Association (BCIA) and global product manager with Belimo.

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