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National Apprenticeship Week takes place from 9 to 13 March

Apprenticeships are now seen as a viable alternative to going to university, and it is hoped the Trailblazer Apprenticeship schemes will encourage more youngsters to take up a career that will also give them professional recognition.

As National Apprenticeship Week approaches, Bryan Clark, technical and education manager for the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE), reflected on the progress of the Trailblazer programme for plumbing and domestic heating.

“So much has happened since this project started early last year,” he said. “Funding from the Gatsby Foundation allowed the CIPHE and SummitSkills to carry out research to understand issues and barriers around professional recognition for plumbing and domestic heating. The information gathered culminated in the government sanctioning a Trailblazer scheme for our industry.

“Further research has been carried out by an employer development group, with SummitSkills acting as secretariat and the Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors in England and Wales providing development consultative services. A draft standard has now been created and circulated for consultation. It is hoped that the final standard will be ready to submit for formal approval before the end of February.

He continued: “Because the new scheme is being developed by employers, we know it is going to be fit for purpose. It will also lead to EngTech registration, which will raise standards in the industry.

“This whole process has proved to me how important it is for our industry to work together. Educating the next generation of plumbing and heating installers is such an important issue – we must all do what we can to ensure that we get it right.”

Recently, the government response to the Future of Apprenticeships in England: Funding Reform Technical Consultation has received an angry response from the industry because of concerns over future cost.

Minister for skills and equalities Nick Boles MP stated in the government responseto the consultation that “purchasing power for investing in apprenticeship training should also lie with the employer”.

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