In 2015, the Association of Technical Lightning and Access Specialists (ATLAS) faced a challenge.
When the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) announced that all workers would need an industry-accredited National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) at level 2 or 3 by 2020, ATLAS had to act quickly.
With the help of £64,000 funding, the firm is hitting the target – and aiming higher.
“We knew we’d have to upskill a few hundred people and that we needed to get companies in the mind-set for it now”, says Sarah Garry, ATLAS trade association manager.
ATLAS represents 50 companies and 1,300 operatives across the UK. Many workers had decades of experience in preventing lightning damage, but only some held the required NVQ.
“If we waited until the 2020 deadline, demand would be so high we wouldn’t be able to guarantee people would receive their qualification,” says Sarah.
To help meet the challenge, ATLAS developed a training programme. Its target was to ensure 40 operatives gained the required qualification in the first year, and a further 20 people annually after that.
To fund the project, ATLAS applied for CITB's innovation, pilots and prototypes funding, and was awarded £64,000.
Progress has been swift. ATLAS is halfway to meeting its first-year target, with 20 people en route to gaining the new standard.
“The feedback has been overwhelming", says Sarah. “Our members were really pleased we addressed their training issues and people are now asking if there are more places available. It’s definitely stirred an appetite for training.”
The new training initiatives, backed by CITB funding, have paved the way for more young people to enter the industry.
“Because we’re so niche, employers have always relied on word-of-mouth and family connections when finding apprentices. With these kinds of projects in place, we can offer a clear career path to a lot more people.”
ATLAS’ training aspirations have significantly expanded since it secured the funding from CITB.
Sarah says: “We’ve started a scheme linked to renewing CSCS cards. It means anyone renewing their card must take an extra one-day training course.”
“We are also developing an upskilling programme for our technical engineers... It means that anyone with an NVQ level 2 would have classroom training and support to help them get a level 3 qualification.”
As ATLAS celebrates its seventieth year in business, the organisation is set to attract many more people to the sector.
Company: Association of Technical Lightning and Access Specialists (ATLAS)
Sector: Lightning protection and steeplejack
Challenge: Ensure over 200 workers gain an NVQ level 2 and 3 by 2020
Solution: Programme to upskill workers using £64,000 in CITB funding
Impact: 40 workers on track to gain an NVQ; 20 more expected annually. Renewed interest in training and new initiatives set up.
"Our members were really pleased we addressed their training issues... It’s definitely stirred an appetite for training”
Sarah Garry, ATLAS trade association manager