A Q&A with the Plumbing and Heating Skills Partnership

Published:  22 June, 2017

HVP got in touch with the people behind the Plumbing and Heating Skills Partnership (PHSP) to find out how they’re filling the gap left by the closure of SummitSkills.

What is the Plumbing and Heating Skills Partnership, and what does it do?

The PHSP is a strategic, not-for-profit partnership, established by the Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors (APHC), the Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation (SNIPEF) and the British Plumbing Employers’ Council (Training) Ltd (BPEC) in April 2017 following the closure of SummitSkills, to lead, develop and drive forward the plumbing industry’s skills agenda.

The footprint of the new skills partnership covers plumbing and domestic heating. The PHSP is not a new organisation and only has limited resources, however it aims to support (where possible) essential skills development activity to ensure there are appropriate and consistent standards, qualifications and apprenticeships across the UK.

What has the Partnership achieved so far (since April 2017), and what are the plans for the future?

Several strategic planning meetings have taken place between the key organisations, which have resulted in the development of a business model, structure and plan. New branding has been created and a website is currently in development. This will be launched shortly after the first PHSP event, which takes place on 29 June.

The key priority for 2017 is to provide funding to support the development activity of the plumbing and heating Trailblazer apprenticeship for England. Similar skills development projects (such as qualification and apprenticeship reviews) will be supported in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as resources permit.

How does the Partnership differ from SummitSkills in terms of goals and responsibility?

SummitSkills was a sector skills council and then a standard setting organisation for the building services engineering sector. It ceased to operate at the end of March 2017. The skills agenda across the UK has changed dramatically over the last few years, putting the emphasis on the ownership of skills to the industry themselves.

The PHSP was established to fill the void left by SummitSkills to ensure the skills needs of the plumbing and domestic industry are met in the UK. Other arrangements are in place for the separate parts of Building Services Engineering across the UK.

How will the Partnership work to improve and control the quality of training and apprenticeships? Will this include working with the government?

There should be both internal and external quality assurance (QA) arrangements in place for training and apprenticeships across the plumbing and heating industry.

The college or training provider that offers the actual training and/or assessment will have their own internal QA processes in place, and they will be monitored externally by the awarding organisation that certificates the course or qualification.

Colleges and training providers offering apprenticeships will also be inspected by Ofsted and monitored closely by the relevant funding body, e.g. the Skills Funding Agency (for England).

Awarding organisations are themselves regulated by The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual). Ofqual regulates qualifications, examinations and assessments in England (other bodies perform this function in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland).

The PHSP are keen to support that training for the plumbing and heating industry is of the highest standard and in the first instance would encourage any employers/individuals to report any poor standards of training to the appropriate body (e.g. the training provider themselves and then the awarding and/or certification body thereafter).

If you'd like to know more, or get in touch with the Partnership, you can contact John Thompson at the APHC (info@aphc.co.uk), Paul Johnson at BPEC (info@bpec.org.uk), or Duncan Wilson at SNIPEF (info@snipef.org).