Developing competence frameworks for installers

1 Mar 22

More needs to be done to raise awareness of the implications of the Building Safety Bill and engage stakeholders in the development of competence frameworks, attendees at the latest GIRI members’ meeting heard. Dawn Hillier of CITB said there is a lack of understanding about why these frameworks will be important and called on GIRI members to engage with their sector working groups.

Dawn is head of strategy for standards and qualifications at the CITB and a member of Working Group 2, one of the 11 occupational groups established as part of the industry’s response to Grenfell. WG2’s objective is to develop a competence framework for those involved in the installation and maintenance of fire safety and other safety critical systems for higher-risk buildings.

“Very quickly we realised this is not a single job role,” said Dawn. “We identified upwards of 40 fire safety systems, active and passive, and potentially more than 30 individual occupations that require competence frameworks.”

The frameworks will outline the standards of competence associated with each role – the activities, skills, knowledge and behaviours – and what mechanisms will be used to independently assess and revalidate competence.

She warned that competence will need to be revalidated every five years. “This is a significant emphasis within BSI Flex 8670, the overarching competence framework. So far, we have not come across any existing mechanisms in this sector to revalidate the competence of individuals.”

WG2 has reached a consensus around five core principles. “The first is that we need to focus both on individual competence and the competence of organisations, and therefore we need some form of accredited third-party certification of companies. When we engaged with the different organisations that fed into WG2, it was clear that some parts of the sector already have such a scheme, but many do not.”

The remaining four principles address the competence of individuals: level 2 or 3 qualifications for individuals; a card scheme such as, but not limited to, the CSCS; CPD refresher training and the maintenance of individual skills; and that all installers have a core knowledge of fire safety in buildings, with training to be standardised and made mandatory.

On this final point, WG2 has started work on an e-learning and assessment module around fire safety awareness that will set out the core mandatory elements for anyone installing any kind of fire safety system within buildings. This core module will slot into each of the frameworks as they are developed, alongside any additional training and assessment identified for individual occupations. 

No single sector has all the components in place to fully meet the WG2 requirements, said Dawn. “I think this is true of every role being considered in the context of the building safety programme. All roles are having to take a step forward from where they are to meet all the requirements that have been set out. Some are a lot further away than others.”

With this in mind, WG2 initiated a pilot project to develop and test a process for defining competences, focusing on eight of the identified installer roles, including priority roles like cladding installation. “Where possible, we wanted to identify common problems and gaps, and create opportunities for common solutions,” said Dawn.  

The pilot is just entering phase two. Phase one focused on understanding current arrangements for each occupation, identifying the key stakeholders, and looking at existing competence standards and assurance mechanisms. This took around nine months. 

Phase one highlighted the difficulty of getting stakeholders to come together and take part in the development of the competence framework. “There is a widespread lack of awareness about the BSB and its implications and there isn’t the impetus or understanding of why the framework will be so important or why they should help ensure it is representative of the way the work is carried out.”

Phase two is focusing on gap analysis and will confirm the occupational standard for each role. This means identifying the functions associated with the role, and the skills, knowledge and behaviours required to carry these out. This phase will also involve comparing the existing training and competence arrangements against WG2 requirements and the principles established in BSI Flex 8670. “This will identify the gaps between what is currently available and what needs to be available as part of the new BSB programme.”

This phase is expected to take 12 months and will establish the competence framework. “Crucially, it will result in an implementation plan that will set out all the individual activities and the various responsible parties,” said Dawn. “We anticipate this will involve the development of new training, new qualifications, or adaptions to existing schemes, as well as changes to card scheme rules or establishing card schemes where these do not already exist.”

Phase three is expected to result in the approval of the competence framework ready for use and implementation.

“We are keen to have a conversation with the HSE about phased implementation,” said Dawn. “Some sectors will need to implement several components to become fully compliant and logically it is better to introduce these as and when they become available rather than all at once. And the need to create more impetus for people to engage from this early stage will become even more important when thinking about the training and qualification infrastructure required to develop the level of competence these frameworks have set out to achieve.”

Dawn finished by urging GIRI members to get involved with their sector groups, and said she was keen to open a dialogue about how GIRI activities, research, and training can feed into the competence frameworks.

Read Claire Price's update to the members' meeting on the development of BSI Flex 8670.

Read Anthony Taylor's update on competence assessment for building safety managers.

Read Brendan van Rooyen's update on changes to the ICE's CPD framework

For future members' meeting dates, please see our event calendar.

Find out more about membership.

Back Back