A new apprenticeship accreditation set up by the Institute of Fire Engineers (IFE) will focus on “quality control”, the organisation’s chief executive has said.
The scheme, set up in conjunction with the Fire Service College, will involve an “end-point assessment” focusing on occupational competence and capability, designed to put fire-safety competency at the heart of training, IFE chief executive Steve Hamm told Construction News.
“If the groundwork is done, that endpoint assessment can be a pathway into professional bodies,” he said.
Legally there is no compulsion for firms to accredit their fire assessor or engineer apprenticeships with the IFE or the government, but Hamm argued that accredited apprenticeships would increase competency across the industry.
The assessment is what “really distinguishes” the new apprenticeship model from traditional apprenticeships in the construction industry, he said. Apprentices who successfully complete the assessment will be given a new award, with the prefix TIFireE.
Anyone undertaking an IFE-accredited apprenticeship will also get free membership of the institute.
Significant changes outlined in the Building Safety Act mean that assessing buildings for fire safety has become “quite complex”, Hamm said, meaning that more training is needed to make sure that the required competencies are covered.
An investigation by CN into professional indemnity insurance in construction last year showed that there could be as few as 100 fire assessors in the UK with the right competence and experience to carry out work for the industry.
The apprenticeship accreditation would go some way to increasing the number of competent fire engineers and assessors in the UK, Hamm said.
“The incentive should come from the market itself,” he added. As time goes on and the accredited apprenticeship gets used more widely, Hamm’s hope is that “one of the immediate things” clients will do when recruiting fire assessors is check they are registered with a body like the IFE.
The idea is, said Hamm, that “if you haven’t got the credentials, perhaps you won’t get the work.”
Companies would need to accredit their apprenticeships with the IFE so graduates would automatically gain recognition of their training after they passed the assessment.
The accreditation could also help boost a fire assessor’s credentials, and that of their firm, if their ability to make decisions about fire safety are ever questioned, Hamm added.
“You’re in a far stronger position as an individual organisation, if you can say, ‘I’m a member of this professional body. I professionally registered and I’ve been deemed to be competent in this field, and I maintain my professional development and here’s the evidence of that.’
“So that whole thing about employer organisational risk can be mitigated to quite a substantial degree by fire and construction professionals being members of professional bodies,” Hamm said.
The accreditation was announced as part of National Apprenticeship Week, which ends today.