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July 15, 2020


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“Now is the time to act on apprenticeship uptake,” says SSAIB

Following the UK Government’s announcement of additional support for apprenticeship schemes, SSAIB Training Manager, Trevor Jenks, explains why it is the perfect time for businesses in the security and fire sector to open their doors to new apprentices.   


Trevor Jenks, National Training Manager for the SSAIB

SSAIB certification has always been linked to the technical competence demonstrated by SSAIB-approved companies to meet the challenge of the ever-evolving technologies of today’s security and emergency system market. As a result, it is these challenges that increasingly calls for technically competent, trained staff at all levels.

There is a recognised and increasing skills gap appearing across the industry, that is only predicted to grow in the coming decade. The need for SSAIB companies to continue with the upskilling of existing staff and for the industry to have an active, innovative, apprenticeship programme to supply the additional system engineers and designers of the future has consequently never been more important.

As the National Training Manager of the technical inspectorate within the security and emergency system industry, I encourage and actively support initiatives and opportunities for Continued Professional Development (CPD) that help to prove of technical competence of both the individual, and our industry, against the new Fire, Emergency and Security Apprenticeship Standard (FESS).

A positive response by industry to COVID-19

During the COVID-19 lockdown, manufacturers have taken the initiative to bring their training programmes online, as well as developing ‘open to all’ webinars on several topics. As a training professional, I recognise the work that had to be done to achieve these goals and I applaud the manufacturers for their achievements in doing so.

Approved companies have continued to use the opportunity of furlough and downtime to upskill their staff, keeping pace with new technologies by making use of these new initiatives.

“There is not a better time to plan for the future and take on an apprentice (or two,) to make use of the Chancellor’s apprenticeship incentive before that opportunity is expired. With limited training places at the recognised training providers, now is not the time for hesitation or for indecision.”

Some of the training academies have also kept the FESS apprenticeship programme on target by delivering initiative training remotely – using a variety of technical platforms – and they should also be recognised and applauded for achieving this.

SSAIB – as a technical inspectorate – has even used this online technology to continue to carry out its inspectorate role throughout this time. Furthermore, companies seeking SSAIB certification have accessed such training to support their statement of the technical competence required as part of gaining SSAIB approval.


What is very apparent is that our industry has not only continued to provide key support to the country in these difficult times, but has developed a ‘new norm’ in which the importance of training – and upskilling staff through new and initiative ways – has, at last, been recognised as an investment in its future. It is critical that, as we all come out of the lockdown, we ensure that this investment is not put back on the shelf and ignored as other business needs take priority.

If there is one lesson to be learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is that planning for your business’ future is not a luxury, but a necessity to be able to take on change and the technical challenges that our industry faces. Upskilling our existing workforce and building a workforce for the future – with our own FESS Apprenticeship Scheme setting the engineering Standard – for the whole industry, is a business priority.

IFSEC Global’s guide to the FESS Apprenticeship Standard

Are we really going to ignore what we have learnt and gained from this experience and go back to our old ways?

Additional support for apprenticeships

RishiSunak-Budget2020-20In his recent statement, Chancellor Rishi Sunak recognised the need to help companies to get back to work and build their futures, by adding to the existing funding of the new apprenticeship schemes. This includes additional incentive payments for taking on new apprentices in the coming months.

  1. The additional incentives (for England only) are targeted towards those apprentices employed between August 2020 and January 2021.
  2. For those aged 16-24, employers will get a £2000 incentive payment, while if the apprentice is between the ages of 16-18, a further £1000 incentive bonus is also paid.
  3. Those apprentices aged 25 and over will generate a bonus of £1500. This is on top of the existing apprenticeship funding available.

This is really great news and the timing could not have been better for the academies and training providers, who have operated through the lockdown planning to get apprentices back in to develop their practical experiences – as well as starting new groups of apprentices in the coming months.

College providers – who closed early in the lockdown – are also looking at how to restart their apprenticeship programmes from September onwards, so they will also be looking at starting new groups this year.

Get on board with FESS

This provision will differ from provider to provider, as they implement plans of how to operate in a socially distant environment. This new incentive will likely increase the demand for the existing limited spaces on the FESS Apprenticeship programme, so you need to start planning now.

The FESS Apprenticeship not only delivers the competent workforce needed for the future, but has set the standard for all existing operatives within the Fire, Emergency and Security Systems industries, allowing them to demonstrate what they have achieved. Continuing to upskill the existing workforce – using training providers, online learning, webinars, manufacturer training, inhouse toolbox talks, as just a few examples – is moving the industry closer to demonstrating that achievement.

Doing so will help combat the findings such as those of Dame Judith Hackitt, FiChemE. FCGI, which highlighted the shortcomings in the wider fire and security industries following the Grenfell Tower fire. The whole of our industry needs to correct years of training neglect by proving and developing the technical competence held by its existing operatives, so we can work on making such tragedies a thing of the past.

As an industry, we can no longer sit on the side-lines and watch the world go by. SSAIB has always supported the upskilling of existing technical competence and the FESS Apprenticeship programme to meet the industry and market demand for competent operatives in the future as the industry grows.

There is not a better time to plan for the future and take on an apprentice (or two,) to make use of the Chancellor’s apprenticeship incentive before that opportunity is expired. With limited training places at the recognised training providers, now is not the time for hesitation or for indecision.

Now is the time to act!

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