The Group Competence Scheme, an alternative route to gas certification, offers sector employers assurance of staff competence and safe practice
- GCS supports the objectives of Gas Safety Week, in maintaining competence in the gas industry, which is faced with a series of workforce issues
- The Energy & Utilities Workforce Renewal & Skills Strategy, which is working to address these issues, has been recognised by Ofgem
An alternative route to Gas Safe certification that was developed by Energy & Utility Skills alongside gas industry experts continues to help sector employers maintain Gas Safe registration. The Group Competence Scheme (GCS), in offering sector employers added assurance of staff competence, supports the objectives of Gas Safety Week, which this year runs until 24 September.
GCS gives Gas Safe-registered businesses an alternative to the Accredited Certification Scheme to re-assess employees, through continuous professional development rather than singular assessments every five years.
Endorsed by the Health and Safety Executive, GCS uses sector employers’ existing systems and processes which means businesses can schedule the appropriate briefings, training and assessments for all employees in line with their business needs. Through GCS, employees remain briefed on technical and legislative changes as and when they are introduced, reducing down time and the costs of additional assessments.
Since its June 2014 launch, a number of UK businesses have transferred to GCS. British Gas was the first to complete the pilot and received certification, in 2015. The route has since been adopted by Aaron Services, DencoHappel, and more recently AvantiGas, a leading UK supplier of liquid petroleum gas.
AvantiGas’ Quality Manager, Sara Mallender said: “Our people are extremely important to AvantiGas and they are at the heart of our brand. This programme supports the continuous development of our engineers. Through the GCS, our engineers are assessed in their live, working environment so it offers a more realistic representation of the problems faced in the field. If something doesn’t go quite to plan you can see how the engineer thinks and how they use their other skills to deliver the service and meet the GCS criteria.
“That’s what the whole scheme is about – making sure that our engineers are really competent in their work, and that we’re checking it. We aren’t just waiting for a five-year exam to verify that – it’s a continual process which reinforces and endorses our commitment to maintain our high standards.
“The scheme has been really well-received by our engineers. The key thing is that it takes pressure off them to pass an exam – and it takes the pressure off the company
, because we’re not having to take them out of their normal work. We hope to complete our second assessment before the end of the year – at which point, we will be fully accredited.”
Steve Hallett, Engineering, Applications and SHEQ Manager, added: “The GCS will allow us to continually appraise and approve our engineers for LPG work. It offers a platform to develop further competence within our Engineering department and expand our product portfolio. The GCS represents a significant step forward in the way we manage our training and demonstrate compliance.”
GCS has played a part in securing a series of industry awards and nominations this year:
- Richard Harper, Technical Standards Manager at British Gas, won an outstanding contribution award from the Institution for Gas Managers and Engineers (IGEM) for his implementation of the GCS.
- British Gas won the Utility Week Award for staff development, as a result of this step-change in how the industry manages competence.
- Aaron Services was nominated for the Staff Training & Development Award at the Gas Safety Awards after putting its gas engineers through GCS, which the provider of heating, servicing and maintenance services acknowledged for increasing staff performance and competence.
Nick Ellins, Chief Executive of Energy & Utility Skills, added: “Making sure engineers operate to the highest standards and constantly maintain and can show their gas safety competencies is essential. The GCS is an important part of our strategic work with the gas industry and the Health and Safety Executive, to drive competence levels ever higher and increase safety.”
The Workforce Renewal & Skills Strategy, which was published by the Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership, found that the gas industry - alongside the water, electricity and waste sectors- is facing a challenge to fill skilled roles. Technological advances means that there is a shortage of several types of specialist gas engineers. Also, close to 20% of the 184,000 people working in gas across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are aged 55 or over and could retire within the next decade.
The Skills Strategy’s efforts to address these issues have been recognised and supported by Ofgem: “The clean, reliable and affordable supply of energy is vital to customers and communities across the land,” said Ofgem’s Chief Executive, Dermot Nolan. “The development of a smarter, more flexible energy system and increasing use of smart technologies will transform the way our industry operates in the decades to come. Success is dependent on attracting talented people into the sector from diverse backgrounds and developing the advanced skills that are needed. The Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership and their comprehensive workforce renewal and skills strategy offers a blueprint to achieve this challenging objective.”
Energy & Utility Skills has signed up to Gas Safety Week, which runs until 24 September. Over 7,000 organisations have joined forces to raise awareness of the dangers of poorly maintained gas appliances.