New routes to professional certification will be made available to building services companies next year, following the revision of F Gas handling legislation.
When the Construction Industry Training Board announced it would close its Utilities Engineering Division in January 2017, concerns were raised that there would be a gap in training provision for the gas, electric, water, oil, refrigerant, steam and renewable industries.
Companies working with refrigerant gases were particularly concerned, as their staff are legally required to carry F Gas certification. However, DEFRA – the government department responsible – said the revised legislation would pave the way for the creation of new schemes and it has now approved the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA), which operates the Refcom safe refrigerant handling scheme, as an F Gas certification body.
"We are delighted to have received approval from DEFRA to help plug this vital gap in certification," said BESA chief executive Paul McLaughlin. "It is important that there continues to be a number of providers in the market, offering choice and ensuring value for money, and we have been working with DEFRA for some time to set up our own scheme to support employers right across the sector."
He stressed that there was no need for employers to seek immediate re-certification via alternative providers, as their existing CITB certificates will remain valid until their printed expiry dates and the new BESA scheme will be in place from next year.
The BESA, which has been providing specialist training and certification for more than 25 years, said F Gas would be the first of a series of new BESA certification programmes and would be followed by ventilation; health & safety; unvented hot water; energy efficiency and renewables; and ventilation hygiene.
"The new regulations offer a catalyst for BESA to disrupt the traditional certification market," said BESA Training director Tony Howard. "Historically, we have delivered training and certification ourselves using third parties with assessments we developed. We now intend to grow and develop training, assessment and certification to enable employers in our industry to access the provision they need at a local level through licensed providers audited against our standards."
The development of new style apprenticeship training is also taking place alongside the changes to certification. The Association said the government's new Trailblazer apprenticeship scheme was an opportunity "to radicalise provision of training in the sector".
"There needs to be greater clarity between ‘short courses’ and apprenticeships," explained Mr Howard. "BESA plans to change the nature of apprenticeships by raising the bar of provision and enabling industry specialists to help employers train their own apprentices."
Association President Malcolm Thomson, who runs an air conditioning business, said he was encouraged by the decision.
"Businesses must have a choice of routes to certification to satisfy their own business models. F Gas is our first scheme to hit the market, but it will certainly not be the last," he added.
Any training centres wishing to apply to BESA to become approved providers should email email@example.com.