Category: Blog

Apprenticeship Myth Busting

Peter Behan explores the myths which surround apprenticeships and debunks some common misconceptions.

  • Apprentices are for school leavers

Apprenticeships are for everyone and a proven route into skilled employment, offering an opportunity to earn while you learn, gain valuable work experience and pursue a successful career in your chosen field. Apprenticeships can also be entered into at any age and are not just for those starting out on their career path.

  • Apprentices don’t earn very much

Apprentices must receive at least the national minimum wage and a great number of employers choose to pay more than this.

Over the long-term, individuals with an advanced apprenticeship earn between £77,000 and £117,000 more across their lifetime than similar individuals with Level 2 qualifications. It’s also not uncommon for apprentices to end up earning more than their graduate counterparts, plus they typically won’t have loans to pay back.

  • Apprenticeships don’t lead to a full-time job

Many companies choose to employ apprentices once their course has been successfully completed and over 90% of apprentices either remain in employment or continue their learning.

  • Apprenticeships don’t cover the areas that matter most to employers

Apprenticeship standards are now developed by a number of organisations who work together to create learning material that will provide the individual with the knowledge and expertise to succeed. Therefore, when an individual completes their course they possess a skillset employers are specifically looking for.

  • Apprentices are only given menial work to do

Apprenticeships are full time paid jobs and most cover a wide range of tasks, including areas of the business where there are clear skills gaps. Most organisations recognise the benefits of offering opportunities to get to know different areas of the business. According to research, a quarter of former apprentices (23%) secure a promotion within 12 months of qualifying.

  • Businesses are not currently taking apprentices on

Following a tough couple of years, many businesses have detailed plans in place to expediate future growth. New starter levels are now rising steadily and there has been a noticeable uptick in apprenticeship interest from businesses and individuals.

  • Employers don’t value apprenticeships

Apprentices are proven to add value to a business, often filling skills gaps and bringing fresh perspective to a role. Furthermore, studies have suggested that apprenticeships boost productivity and employers believe that former apprentices are 15% more employable than those with other qualifications.


Building a Better Future

Building a better future

With National Apprenticeship Week still fresh in the memory it’s an opportune time to examine how apprenticeships can offer individuals the necessary skills and knowledge to embark on a fulfilling career within their chosen industry, whilst at the same time allowing employers to take on and retain highly skilled, ambitious operatives.

The theme of National Apprenticeship Week 2022 was ‘Build the Future’ (allied to the fundamental messages featured in the Build Back Better campaign), encouraging all parties to consider the ways in which apprenticeships can help individuals, employers, local communities, and the wider economy.

For employers, taking on an apprentice should be viewed as an investment in the future of the organisation – an ideal opportunity to address skills gaps, upskill the workforce and prepare for the challenges and opportunities that may lie ahead. Investing in a workforce helps to retain talent and apprentices gain the all-important skills and knowledge needed to drive your business forward, taking on the values of the company and contributing to the development of a confident, dynamic workforce with future-ready skills. Businesses that have previously taken on apprentices recognise the value they can offer and the swift return on investment that can be achieved.

After a tough couple of years, many businesses now have detailed plans in place as part of a nationwide effort to expediate a return to something approaching normality. Apprentices are a driving force in the campaign the build back stronger, with new starter levels rising steadily and a noticeable uptick in interest from businesses and individuals.

Following a week of positive messaging and apprenticeship success stories there is clearly plenty of momentum behind the apprenticeship movement and whether you are looking to take on an apprentice or to start an apprenticeship yourself, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved.

Group Horizon apprenticeships are for both new recruits and existing employees and can help businesses meet skills demands whilst maintaining efficiency and competitiveness. View the full range of Group Horizon run apprenticeships at: www.grouphorizon.co.uk/our-courses


Make a Fresh Start in 2022

Make a fresh start in 2022

Peter Behan, Director of Group Horizon, encourages those looking to take the next step in their building controls career to consider a BEMS Controls Engineer Apprenticeship.

If you currently work in the BEMS industry you may already be aware of the Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) Controls Engineer Apprenticeship being delivered by Group Horizon. Run in partnership with the Building Controls Industry Association (BCIA), the apprenticeship is directly addressing the well-documented industry shortage of BEMS controls engineers and bringing through a new generation of highly skilled operatives. But if you’re already familiar with the building controls industry, why should you take more of an interest in in training?

As energy prices continue to rise and show no sign of slowing down, improving energy efficiency will remain high on the agenda for business owners and building operators. One of the knock-on effects will be increased demand for highly skilled, adaptable engineers familiar with the latest building technologies and capable of integrating smart solutions into the built environment.

With new efficient building technologies emerging on a regular basis, energy management systems and solutions are no longer viewed as expensive extravagances but are essential long-term investments which help drive down costs and improve the wellbeing of building occupants. A new generation of skilled engineers is needed more than ever before and there is now fresh impetus to deliver the necessary training and ensure we have the talented individuals needed to deliver the buildings of tomorrow. Put simply, there has never been a better time to get involved and upskill in this exciting and dynamic industry.

The Group Horizon run apprenticeship offers a balance of on-the-job assessments and technical training delivered on the apprentice’s company site and through classroom and/or online learning sessions. All aspects of the industry are covered, including Controls Hardware and Logic; Field Devices; Networking; Communication Protocols and Supervisor Software and on successful completion of the programme, individuals will receive the Level 4 Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) Controls Engineer Apprenticeship. In addition, on successful completion of technical modules BCM01 – 03 apprentices will receive the BCIA Technical Certificate and the BCIA Advanced Technical Certificate on successful completion of BCM04 – 06. Apprentices will also be eligible to apply for an Electrotechnical Certification Scheme (ECS) Building Controls card at Associate or Integrator Level (depending on level of experience) on completion of specific BCIA technical training modules.

With the first two cohorts now underway and a third about to start, demand for places on this apprenticeship is high. To register your interest please visit: https://grouphorizon.co.uk/bems-referral-form/


Developing the Buildings of the Future

Developing the buildings of the future

The drive to reduce energy consumption and increase efficiency in commercial buildings means that demand for skilled engineers will rise steeply over the coming years. Peter Behan explains how building controls engineers can acquire the necessary skills to meet growing demand for efficient, seamlessly integrated buildings.

As the world strives to reduce its carbon footprint, the importance of efficient building management continues to grow. One of the results of this is that the technology that goes into buildings, whether new-build or retrofit, is becoming more advanced than ever, and its complexity means trained and qualified engineers are required to install it.

Modern legislation and environmental targets have made good building management a priority and the next generation of Building Controls Engineers will be the key drivers in evolving technologies.

Group Horizon offers a full suite of training courses for the Building Controls Industry Association (BCIA) which are designed for those wishing to upskill or start their journey as a Building Controls Engineer.

BCM01, for example, gives an overview of the Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) industry and the systems and technologies used in the control of heating, ventilating and air conditioning, while BCM02 offers comprehensive training on the theory of measuring and control technology and is designed for engineers and technicians who have some knowledge and field experience. BCM03 involves the main water circuits and systems used within the building services controls environment. This course includes the necessary mechanical knowledge needed to understand applications and covers all aspects of valve sizing and control.

Anybody who completes these three courses will be awarded a BCIA Technical Certificate and become eligible for the Electrotechnical Certification Scheme’s Building Controls Integrator ECS card provided the applicant also holds a formal BS7671 qualification in the current edition of the wiring regulations (currently BS7671: 2008, 18th edition) as well as a current (up to date) Health & Safety Certificate or recognised ECS H&S exemption.

A few steps further

After you have successfully completed the BCIA modules BCM01-03 then why not think about going a few steps further and qualifying for an Advanced Technical Certificate? This can be achieved by completing courses BCM04 to BCM06 and gives engineers the opportunity to prove to clients and employers their full understanding of the six building controls subjects which cover Fundamentals of HVAC & Building Technology, Measuring & Control Technology, Hydraulics in Building Systems, Control Function in Heating Plant, Control of Ventilation and Air Conditioning Plant and Control of Cooling Systems.

For anyone looking to embark on a career as a Building Energy Management System (BEMS) Controls Engineer, Group Horizon now offers a three-year technical training programme, which offers a balance of on the job assessments and technical training covering all aspects of the industry. The BEMS Controls Engineer Apprenticeship has been designed to address an industry-wide shortage of BEMS Controls Engineers and includes a series of classroom and/or online sessions covering the technical theory which is included in the BCIA technical course modules BCM00 – BCM15.

The first two Apprenticeship programmes have been fully booked up and the feedback has so far been very positive. Jake Jarram, BEMS Apprentice at Building Controls Specialists Ltd, said: “I have been very impressed with how well structured the modules are in the BCIA course I am completing. The lecturer is very experienced and skilled in the industry, showing a very positive outlook on HVAC and is very keen to pass on their knowledge. 

“When working day-to-day for BCS I have developed a great variety of skills which are invaluable to someone of my age, working in various places and contributing towards the completion of the project/maintenance. I am looking forward to my future in the building controls industry.”

The Building Controls industry is wide and diverse and offers numerous opportunities for skilled engineers. To ensure you stay ahead of the competition and prove your competence in this rapidly expanding market Group Horizon’s specialist tutors, who each bring a wealth of experience in their chosen field, will deliver the training that will ensure the future of our built environment is in safe hands.


Dos and Don’ts When Taking on an Apprentice

Peter Behan of Group Horizon outlines some of the dos and don’ts when taking on an apprentice.

Do
Target your apprenticeship at areas where you have clearly identified skills gaps and shortages or future areas of growth

Give some thought to your business’ immediate and future needs and consider how an apprentice could help to fill skills gaps or help grow certain areas of your organisation. The skills that the apprentice will be learning should match the requirements of your business and provide a secure foundation that will allow them to foster a long-term career at the company.

Set clear and realistic expectations about what you are hoping to get from the apprenticeship

Discuss your business goals and how you expect the apprentice to help you achieve them. Plan ways in which the organisation can get the most from the apprenticeship by providing a clear support structure. You will eventually need to sign an agreement with your apprentice that will lay out details of the skill, trade or occupation the apprentice is being trained for, the name of the apprenticeship they’re working towards, the start and end dates for the apprenticeship and the amount of training you’ll give them.

Find a trusted organisation that offers training for the apprenticeship you’ve chosen

There are a great many regional and national training providers to choose from but be sure to select a provider with experience in your chosen field and a track record of successfully training apprentices to a high standard. An up to the minute curriculum that has been developed by businesses for businesses will offer the apprentice the transferable skills to succeed and flourish. When researching training providers, it’s worth looking out for those with industry recognised accreditations to their names.

Once the training has been agreed you will need to sign a commitment statement with the apprentice and training provider. This will document the planned content and schedule for training, what is expected and offered by the employer, the training provider and the apprentice and shed light on how to resolve queries or complaints.

Check if there is funding available for training or to cover other costs associated with taking on an apprentice

Funding for training is dependent on whether your business pays the government apprenticeship levy or not. If your organisation has an annual pay bill of more than £3 million it will be required to pay the levy and will receive funds (0.5% of the pay bill) to spend on training and assessing apprentices. The government will then add 10%. If your organisation does not need to pay the levy it will pay 5% towards the cost of training and the government will pay the other 95% up to the funding band maximum.

Organisations may also be eligible to claim an incentive payment for new apprentices who start between 1 April and 30 September 2021.

Create a job profile and advertise your apprenticeship

Create a detailed job description in the same way you would for other company positions, detailing exact requirements to attract the right sort of candidates. Apprentices aren’t always young people and they can even be current members of staff.

The National Apprenticeship Service can help promote apprenticeship opportunities to individuals, parents and education establishments and the government hosts a ‘recruit an apprentice’ service for registered training providers (including large employers with direct grant funding) to post vacancies and manage applications for apprenticeships and traineeships.

Understand that the apprentice will require time away from site for studying

Apprenticeships vary in length depending on the subject and level but will take a minimum of 12 months to complete. During this time the apprentice will require some time away from the day-to-day role within the workplace in order to attend a training programme or study.

Provide a robust support network and put mentors in place from the very start

Apprentices will, more often than not, need practical support and guidance from day one in order to help them settle into the role. Regular engagement in the form of a work mentor is often beneficial to all parties, with the mentor helping the apprentice develop good working habits and reinforcing company procedure. Routine catch-up meetings to find out how the apprentice is getting on and address any concerns are also recommended.

Don’t
Treat apprentices as cut-price labour or just another pair of hands for the business

Apprentices should not be viewed as cheap/temporary labour for the business, they should be seen as a long-term business investment and as such should be a major part of the organisation’s future plans. Apprentices often bring fresh ideas and impetus and will more likely stay with an employer who has invested in them. A number of well-known business leaders started out as apprentices and worked their way to the very top.

Assign apprentices unfamiliar tasks without ensuring they have the necessary support or mentors on hand to offer guidance

The first few months of a new apprenticeship can be overwhelming and the apprentice may find themselves struggling to prioritise tasks in an unfamiliar work environment. Providing the necessary support and resources whilst carefully considering workload will help them settle into the role and integrate seamlessly into your team.

Leave the apprentice on uninspiring or repetitive jobs for long periods

Assigning an apprentice to menial tasks means you won’t get the best out of them and they won’t develop the specific skills the business needs. By offering a range of opportunities to carry out meaningful work the apprentice will grow in confidence and acquire an assortment of transferrable skills that will benefit the organisation.

Rush into taking on an apprentice without considering long term goals and engaging in succession planning

Consider how an apprentice could help your business thrive by looking at areas where they could really make a difference over an extended period of time. You may have a range of entry level positions that could work as apprenticeships or you may have hard to fill roles that require specialist training.

Always expect instant results

Set realistic expectations. Apprenticeships aren’t a short-term fix and some young people won’t have had a formal job before so may need nurturing to help them reach their full potential. For many this will be their first step on their career ladder and it will take time for them to develop the skills, confidence and experience needed to thrive.


Who and Why

Peter Behan, Director of Group Horizon, explains why the company’s Junior Energy Management apprenticeship programme is suitable for anybody considering their career options or looking for a new challenge thanks to its real-world work experience and a skill set that every company should have in the 21st century.

Many of us have probably considered a career change at various points in our lives. For some, remaining in the same sector from their late teens/early 20s until retirement can bring many rewards and plenty of experience, while others reach a point where they feel they have got as far as they can on one career path and decide to go in a different direction altogether. Everyone is different and we all vary in how we are motivated.

The recent lockdowns have been difficult for everyone in a variety of ways, but they have also spurred people into trying new things like learning to play an instrument, learning a foreign language or improving their health and fitness – bike sales increased by 63 per cent during the first lockdown according to the UK’s Bicycle Association.

One thing that might deter people from making a fresh start is the thought of being behind everybody else while they are only just beginning and also being unsure of whether they will be able to secure a job. Group Horizon’s Junior Energy Management apprenticeship programme, however, really is open to anybody – and there is currently a major shortage of trained Energy Managers, so anybody who completes this apprenticeship will be helping to fill a void.

Many commercial buildings were left virtually empty during lockdown and this has led to many businesses having to reassess how they manage their premises. As more businesses come to realise that running their building at 100 per cent capacity is neither cost nor energy efficient when it is only partially occupied, there is a growing demand for the deployment of in-house Energy Managers. What’s more, it presents a fantastic opportunity for anybody who has been considering a change of career – especially during lockdown when the jobs market has been competitive and people have been assessing their career options or looking to try something new.

An Energy Manager could come from any previous background, whether it’s in banking, retail, construction, education or something else entirely. Apprentices are given the chance to learn a new set of skills and gain invaluable knowledge that will lead them on to a rewarding new career.

Liam Doughty, from Gateshead, previously worked in Facilities Management before starting a new role as an Energy Technician within Gateshead Council. Liam did not have any previous background within the energy industry, so he took up the Junior Energy Management apprenticeship opportunity with Group Horizon, a move that he is now reaping the benefits from. The qualification has provided Liam with a massive opportunity to progress his knowledge and skills in the energy industry and also move his career forward.

If Liam’s story inspires you then you too can begin your journey to become an Energy Manager under the guidance of Group Horizon. Also, if you are a company looking to meet your sustainability targets then an Energy Manager could be your answer. The Junior Energy Manager apprenticeship programme offers a balance of technical training and on-the-job assessments to match your needs and requirements and can be delivered on site in 24 months.


Revised emissions target set to intensify demand for energy management skills

The UK government’s ambitious target to cut carbon emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels has refocused the spotlight on energy management and the need to reduce energy usage and carbon emissions whilst striving to lower costs. This new target amounts to a 60% reduction on today’s levels and will require a concerted, co-ordinated effort by organisations across all industries. 

Energy manager job roles are becoming increasingly commonplace among organisations that are committed to developing sustainable business practices and understanding energy performance. To fully understand how the typical component parts and systems found in commercial buildings perform in terms of energy consumption there needs to be a thorough appreciation of how energy flows in and out of a building and how key elements can be reconfigured to work in harmony with one another to limit energy loss wherever possible.

With UK energy costs also on the rise once again, energy management skills are expected to be in high demand. Training and apprenticeships based around the core theme of energy management are becoming progressively more popular amongst learners and employers who recognise the need to act quickly and decisively on energy performance in buildings. A Level 3 Junior Energy Management Apprenticeship will provide foundation knowledge across 11 core topics of energy management, including technical, assessments, behavioural change, regulatory and legal, waste management, transport, procurement, water and more. Upon successful completion of the apprenticeship the individual will walk away with a clear understanding of the economics of energy consumption, the processes used to determine energy performance and the fundamentals of how to audit and advise on improvements to energy efficiency and reduce emissions. The employer ultimately benefits from having an in-house energy manager with the skills and expertise to meet the organisation’s sustainability commitments.

Peter Behan, director of Group Horizon, comments: “The Junior Energy Management Apprenticeship aligns perfectly with the government’s latest emissions targets and the pathway to net-zero. Group Horizon has a faultless record of delivering high quality training delivered on site or through online sessions and the Junior Energy Management Apprenticeship appeals to a broad range of industry sectors, including construction and the built environment, NHS, Network Rail, property, retail and leisure.”

Concerns around climate change are driving increasingly rapid changes in government policy which in turn is leading to the creation of new sustainability and energy management job roles with excellent long-term prospects. Organisations across the UK are being prompted to rethink their longstanding energy strategies and should seriously consider the merits of investing in specialist in-house skills and know-how to promote long-term savings.


Benefits of the Junior Energy Management Apprenticeship

Peter Behan, Director of Group Horizon, discusses the company’s Junior Energy Management apprenticeship programme and the benefits it could bring to your company.

Before social distancing came along, energy efficiency had become the most important aspect in commercial building management. The onset of Covid and the subsequent lockdowns has perhaps exacerbated the need for energy efficiency in buildings; this was clearly evident when we were all told to stay at home while lights continued to burn brightly in office buildings up and down the country. Not all of them of course, and organisations who were well on top of their energy management will have had systems in place to switch off services that were not required as people began to work from home where possible.

Even now as some of us return to our normal places of work, in many cases commercial buildings will be operating at a reduced capacity, with some areas of a building used much less than before. Maintaining a tight grasp on their energy efficiency is therefore going to be crucial for organisations in both the short-term and the long-term. There is also the significant challenge of the UK’s net-zero carbon by 2050 target looming on the horizon. If we are to achieve this then we must continue to address the well-documented statistic that buildings account for over 40 per cent of the global energy consumption with commercial premises accounting for more than half of that figure.

Due to the rise of the cost of energy the UK will become one of the most competitive market places for energy management skills over the next five to seven years. With a major shortage of trained energy managers, Group Horizon can help companies reduce energy consumption and costs and meet their sustainability requirements through our Junior Energy Manager apprenticeship programme. Energy managers can come from all types of companies and industries, including hospitality, leisure, retail, banking, manufacturing, construction, and property. As I have already mentioned, energy management is going to become even more crucial for businesses and having somebody trained in-house will be a huge advantage to the consultancy market. Meanwhile new and existing employees or apprentices are given the opportunity to develop life-long skills and gain valuable, hands-on workplace experience whilst earning a wage.

During the course, the apprentice will learn a range of energy management skills which can benefit organisations and lead to long term savings, including:

  • How energy flows in and out of buildings, equipment and processes and how key energy systems operate

  • The economics of energy consumption, supply and demand of energy, sustainability issues and role of the organisation in tackling them

  • Relevant level of theory and practices that underpin the energy efficient use of equipment, processes, and IT systems

  • How to read meters and sub-meters, collect, record and analyse metered data and interpret the manufacturer’s installation and maintenance requirements

  • How to conduct an audit and write up findings to demonstrate any non-conformance concerns

Group Horizon has a proven track record of developing new and innovative provision in a range of subject areas. Our specialist assessors bring a wealth of experience in their chosen fields and invest heavily in research and curriculum development to ensure that all our programmes are delivered up to date and relevant to the job market and the needs of employers. With the Junior Energy Manager apprenticeship, you will ensure your company stays in firm control of its energy consumption while creating a greener future for the UK.

For more information please visit: www.grouphorizon.co.uk