With attendees from almost every UK AM2 centre and representatives from the industry awarding bodies City & Guilds and EAL present, the conference has been a great opportunity to discuss the issues around training that the sector faces and ensure the AM2 continues to be the gold standard for the industry.
As you might expect with a room full of electrical experts, debate was exuberant, often passionate, but always intelligent. And that is exactly what NET is looking for. The ongoing development of the AM2 has been a two way process and this is the way it must continue. The assessment wouldn't be fit to ensure the competence of the workforce against the standards required by the electrical contracting industry if we didn't have the input from employers. And similarly, we need to know precisely what examiners are facing at the coalface to ensure that we maintain rigorous standards without disadvantaging candidates unnecessarily.
Importantly, bringing everyone together ensures that the quality of AM2 assessment can be standardised across the country. It is vital that contractors can be certain that when a candidate passes their AM2, it makes no difference where in the country they took the assessment. It's this that keeps the AM2 fair and impartial.
Feedback from our examiners can also be quickly acted upon if there are issues on which there is broad consensus. At this year's conference, many examiners reported back that they are seeing too high a number of candidates come to sit their AM2 who are not adequately trained in the breadth of electrical work, and consequently, these candidates fail. Putting a candidate forward for their AM2 before they are ready benefits no-one – it is a waste of their time and money, and could damage their morale.
As a direct result, NET is now implementing a new measure to ensure that training providers and employers can be sure their apprentice is ready for assessment. The Self-Assessment Checklist has, since its introduction in April 2010, been a highly recommended – but voluntary – step for apprentices, as it means they can see exactly what they need to be able to carry out on site and can check themselves whether they can do it. From April, this checklist will be a mandatory step before taking the AM2 and will need to be signed by both employer and training provider. This means all those involved can be certain that the candidate has had the necessary training and is truly ready for their assessment and for the challenges facing them as a fully qualified electrical contractor. So the conference has already helped ensure apprentices are given the best possible opportunity without compromising on the standards required.
This commitment to high standards has also been recognised by speakers at the conference, who included Trevor Hill of SummitSkills and representatives from the two core awarding bodies for our sector. NET has already signed a Memorandum of Understanding with EAL, that will see us working together to provide the new NVQ Level 3 Diploma, in which EAL will provide the theory elements and NET the AOC unit via the AM2. City & Guilds' representative too acknowledged the importance of having an impartial industry AOC to ensure candidates meet the right standards across the board.
Overall, the conference has exemplified precisely what the AM2 is about – the industry and its training parties coming together to help provide the best possible foundation for the future. We look forward to integrating and implementing more of the feedback we've had from examiners and centre managers, particularly as much of it will be of interest to electrical contractors looking to maximise their investment in trainees. It's vital that the AM2 remains a conversation between the industry and training providers, and NET looks forward to sharing more discussions in the months to come.
Stephen Plant is Business Development Manager of National Electrotechnical Training (NET), the UK industry training charity that owns and licenses the Assessment of Occupational Competence for the electrical installation industry, the Achievement Measurement 2 (AM2) for England, Wales and Northern Ireland and the Final Integrated Competence Assessment (FICA) for Scotland