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SKILLcard take-up ‘not as wide as might be expected’

The value of SKILLcards has been defended after research by SummitSkills found the scheme was failing to engage small companies and take-up was “not as wide as might be expected” within the building services engineering sector.

The research on SKILLcards was undertaken as part of a wider project facilitated by SummitSkills to identify key themes arising from its Sector Skills Agreement. Other issues included a lack of management training, entrepreneurship and skills awareness.

Researchers found that in 57 per cent of heating and ventilation companies three-quarters of building services engineering staff were not registered with a SKILLcard scheme.

This compares to 28 per cent in the air conditioning and refrigeration sector, 39 per cent in the electrotechnical industry and 37 per cent in plumbing.

Peter Rimmer, head of employment affairs at the Heating and Ventilating Contractors’ Association, said although the research identified weaknesses in take-up in some sectors and some geographical areas, it also highlighted the important role of Engineering Services SKILLcards in monitoring and improving skill levels.

He said: “The data held by Engineering Services SKILLcard and the other industry competence cards schemes are the only sources of information about the qualifications of those working in the industry compiled on a systematic basis across the entire sector.

“While there may be localised gaps and while schemes may not have achieved the same level of penetration into the domestic sector as in the commercial and industrial sector, no other databases provide such a powerful manpower planning tool”.

The SummitSkills report said: “It is not so much a case of many companies not being able to get skills cards due to staff not having formal qualifications, but that many companies within the sector do not see the value of SKILLcards, perhaps because the cards are not policed properly.”

It concluded: “The use of SKILLcards within the BSE sector is not as wide as might be expected, with little engagement within small companies. There is a need to develop SKILLcard ownership within the BSE sector, as this will encourage skills development.”

Engineering Services SKILLcards are not a legal requirement, but are now compulsory on Major Contractors Group sites and many other sites. They are designed to provide industry-wide recognition of skills, competence and qualifications.

Mr Rimmer said he felt clients such as major contractors could be the key to boosting SKILLcards compliance with audits indicating nearly 90 per cent of the workforce on major construction sites held SKILLcards.

He said: “Policing is important, but so are client requirements, and the SummitSkills report makes no recommendations to address this.”