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March 11, 2022


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Why are apprenticeships so important?

Andy Reakes, Head of Growth for the Joint Industry Board and Electrotechnical Certification Scheme, discusses the increasing importance of apprenticeship programmes in the UK, outlining some of the pathways into the fire, emergency and security systems industry.

For many years, in the UK especially, something of a myth has built up surrounding apprenticeships. Unfortunately, schools have focused more on the percentage of leavers going to university places at the expense of encouraging apprenticeships and vocational courses. True, also, is the myth that apprenticeships are only for school leavers, with opportunities for career changers and people later in life have also been overlooked.

Apprenticeships are, in fact, open to people of all ages and, importantly, high quality apprenticeships will become vital in boosting future job prospects.

University offers a suitable route for many, but an apprenticeship proposes the opportunity to earn while you learn, and, in many cases, Government can fully fund the cost of learning and provide employers with incentive payments to help cover costs.

A fresh start

How many of us have considered a career change at some point in our life? How many of us have actually followed through with it? For some, staying in the same industry right up until retirement is the perfect career path that brings its own rewards, while others might seek a fresh start somewhere else.

The lockdown periods since the COVID-19 outbreak have become windows of opportunity for people looking to try new things, whether that’s developing their cooking skills, taking up a new hobby, or improving their fitness.

The past few years have also been a difficult period, with the pandemic affecting many industries and costing thousands of workers their jobs. This has forced people to look for a new career in sectors they may not have considered before.

Ever-changing technology, particularly in the electrotechnical industry, means we are constantly looking to fill a widening skills gap, representing a great opportunity for job seekers and employers alike to get involved in an apprenticeship scheme.

It is vital that this qualification route is actually recognised by the industry as being of worth and not simply a course offering a short cut or quick route into an industry offered by a “rogue trainer”.

Apprenticeships provide the necessary skills and knowledge to individuals that will help them embark on a fulfilling career with their chosen industry, ensure they are recognised by the industry as having the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours on completion, whilst at the same time allowing employers to take on and retain highly skilled, ambitious operatives.

For employers, apprenticeships offer a perfect opportunity to address skills gaps and upskill their workforce, using Government funding to do so.


Whether you are a school leaver or looking for a mid-life career change, in England apprenticeship funding is available for all ages, and the JIB has long promoted the benefits of apprenticeships as being one of the core ways the industry can bring through the next generation of skilled tradespeople and equip them with the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours. This is why the JIB works with more than 60 apprenticeship and training providers to register apprentices under industry recognised frameworks for training and promotion of career progression and employment standards for those in training.

Organisations that have taken on apprentices have discovered the value they can offer as well as the swift return on investment that can be achieved. By investing in your workforce, you will retain talent while apprentices can accrue the skills and knowledge they need to succeed, as well as learning the values of the company and contributing to its success.

As we approach some normality after a tough couple of years, apprentices are playing a crucial role in the campaign to build back stronger, with new starter levels rising steadily. It is up to organisations like ECS to ensure the electrotechnical industry is an attractive option when potential apprentices are considering their next career move. There are many career paths available through the JIB, covering multiple sectors including Electrical, Building Controls, Network Infrastructure, Telecommunications and Fire, Emergency and Security Systems (FESS). At the end of their apprenticeship, newly qualified individuals can obtain their ECS gold card recognising this achievement.

Go for gold

Alongside traineeships, experienced worker assessment routes and qualification frameworks, apprenticeships represent one of the main ways people achieve skilled status in their occupation and the award of an ECS gold card. An ECS apprentice card is a reflection that a person is on that route to a gold card and is building their valuable skills and knowledge, and so employers and clients can readily identify those who will need additional supervision to begin with.

In 2020, the FESS industry introduced a new Occupational Qualification Structure leading to ECS card recognition, aimed at promoting high standards and skills. The new structure was developed by an industry-wide working group formed by leading trade associations and employer representatives including the JIB, British Security Industry Association (BSIA), FESS Employer Group, Fire Industry Association (FIA), Fire & Security Association (FSA), National Security Inspectorate (NSI), SELECT and Security Systems and Alarm Inspection Board (SSAIB). Uniquely recognising the introduction of the FESS Trailblazer, the new structure sets the standard for new entrants to the market at Level 3 whilst also addressing the need to recognise the training, experience and qualifications of the current workforce.

This new pathway, the first specialist fire and security apprenticeship in many years, is helping to professionalise the sector and is helping to raise the bar for those who install, maintain, design and commission fire, emergency and security systems.

Where to start

You can find lots of information on the benefits of an apprenticeship, whether you’re an individual looking to start your journey in the industry, or an employer interested in helping to bring through the next generation of skilled fire and security operatives by going to the TESP website.

Here you will also find information on the Experienced Worker Routes available in FESS for those who have been working in the industry for many years and wish to have their skills, knowledge and experience accredited to the industry standard.

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