SparkSafe LtP addressing industry needs
The exercise in local consultation for Licence to Practise commenced in 2010. During the period, SparkSafe listened to many small, medium and large enterprises and gathered evidence on behalf of the industry, to confirm that something new had to be done to address the race to the bottom trading culture. The driving issues were sub-economic tendering, the decline in industry training standards and practices, over-reliance by parts of the industry on unqualified labour and apprenticeship recruitment difficulties.
Development of the SparkSafe Licence to Practise system proceeded based on approval from a broad spectrum of the local industry following the 2011 Spark Change Conference at the Dunsilly Hotel, Antrim. Engagement with local trade and public sector procurement organisations helped shape the final specification and PGN 01/16 agreement between the NI Construction sector and the Central Procurement Directorate in 2016.
Responding to Local Industry Needs
Views and opinions from electrical contractors have helped steer the SparkSafe team to amend the current requirement for a licence. The criterion for a licence previously included the need for five years industry-related experience, with this verified by current/previous employers. Many employers report annual difficulties in recruiting and retaining high-quality new entrant apprentices, which remains the preferred solution for the industry. However, demand for services also places obligations on the industry to respond and adapt to the reality of available resources. Following consultation with the Central Procurement Directorate and in agreement with employers, part of the entry criterion has been amended. Effective from the 1st July 2019, employment verification criterion will be reduced from five to two years.
Higher Standard Licence Type
Plans to develop a fourth licence type have been boosted by the recent endorsement of NAPIT (the National Association of Professional Inspectors and Testers). The purpose of the fourth licence is to provide a higher standard licence that identifies electrical workers who possess industry approved qualifications and have been assessed onsite by a UKAS accredited certification body. The new licence type is expected to become available in the autumn of 2019.