Guest Blog: Neil Marsden, PCA Apprenticeship Lecturer (7th August 2017)
Having worked in the Preservation Industry for over 30 years as a contractor I fully understand the problems faced by companies involved in the industry. Without doubt one of the most problematic issues is finding the right technicians to carry out work to the standard required.
There is no readily available pool of specialist technicians, unlike other trades such as joiners, bricklayers, plasterers etc.
Traditionally companies have had to employ people with a very narrow range of skills, place them with a more experienced technician and allow them to learn on the job. That’s OK, provided the person teaching them has the necessary skills in the first place. If they have never been taught the right way, what example are they likely to set the trainee?
I wish I had a pound for every trades person that I had sitting in front of me as a potential employee, who claims they know it all. They have 20 years experience and they know it all. It is amazing how many have been doing it the wrong way for 20 years. We have all seen them, ‘all the gear-no idea’.
‘The times, they are a changing’ as Bob Dylan once stated.
The introduction of the PCA Specialist Apprenticeship Programme is a total game changer. For the first time in our industries history you are being provided with the opportunity to train and develop technicians who will not only be able to do the job but just as importantly understand the job that they are doing.
What does the Apprenticeship offer to the employee and ultimately the employer?
For the first time, your employees will be given the opportunity to achieve a nationally recognised qualification which will designate them as a ‘Specialist Damp & Timber Technician’. The confidence boost and increased knowledge they will gain is immeasurable. They will no longer just be going through the motions, the technicians will understand what they are doing and why they are doing it!!!
The apprenticeship covers so much more than damp proofing. Below I have provided a brief indication of what they will be taught:
- Introduction to Building Preservation – apprentices will learn about the history of the industry, past methods of treatment and modern methods of treatment. Why the industry exists is very important for the technician, it helps them to understand the role that they will play in the future of the industry.
- Health & Safety – we cover health and safety during practical sessions in the workshop to re-enforce what they have learnt in the classroom.
- 1-day covering First Aid for which they will receive a certificate to verify their competence.
- Building Construction, Terminology – the students will learn how a building is constructed from foundation to ridge tiles. this is massively important if they are being asked to work on properties and carry out repairs.
- Fungal Decay & Wood Boring Insect – the apprentice will learn the biology relating to both of these issues, how to identify different species, what will cause and sustain infections/infestations and just as importantly methods of control or elimination. In this section apprentices will be taught what products can be used and how they should be applied. Practical session will be utilised to physically demonstrate the correct application methods.
- Damp in Building – we will discuss all types of damp that may affect buildings (rising damp, condensation, rainwater ingress, lateral water ingress, etc). We will discuss how to identify the cause and determine the appropriate solutions.
- Internal Waterproofing Systems – they will be taught the history of Type ‘C’ membranes, former uses and current uses as a primary waterproofing solution.
- Enhanced Practical Skills – the apprentices will be afforded the opportunity to practice their joinery, bricklaying, remedial treatment and plastering skills. They will be introduced to new skills in a manner which is just not possible on site in a real world situation. A huge benefit that we have at the PCA is the practical workshop facility which allows us to deliver hands on training without the pressure of a paying client watching their every move.
By the time the technicians have finished their apprenticeship they will be able to demonstrate a significant improvement in not only their practical skills but also the technical knowledge to allow them to carry out their duties to a professional and competent level.
Classroom teaching and practical sessions provide a unique learning opportunity for the students.
Many forward thinking companies have already enrolled technicians on the apprenticeship programme. They are already feeling the benefit of their newly up skilled technicians. DO NOT risk getting left behind by your competitors. With significant CITB funding covering the cost of the apprenticeship, the question is not ’Can I afford to enrol an apprentice?’ The big question is ‘Can I afford not to enrol an apprentice?