In recognition of the vital importance of apprentices to the future of its sector, the Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbers’ Federation (SNIPEF) has joined with colleges to ensure that apprentices are able to continue to learn their trade during the COVID-19 crisis.

Since the start of the shutdown of the construction industry in Scotland by the Scottish Government, SNIPEF has been proactive in ensuring that the Modern Apprenticeship in Plumbing and Heating has been able to carry on with the minimum of disruption.

Its approach, which has attracted praise from apprentices, employers and colleges alike, has been to establish combined SNIPEF/college task forces to create online alternative assessment practices for the theory work the students must undertake.

The task forces have been resourced by SNIPEF staff , in partnership with other key stakeholders in a range of disciplines from the industry and the educational sector, including IT professionals as well as representatives from bodies such as the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

Dale Thomson, Training Manager at SNIPEF, said: “Most apprentices have been furloughed and the colleges have shut down or are running at very limited capacity. As a result, alternative assessment models have had to be put in place.

“The Plumbing and Heating qualification comprises a mix of practical and theoretical work and the online alternative assessments the task forces have created will be with colleges shortly, so that they can be used by apprentices before the end of term.”

Fiona Hodgson, Chief Executiveof SNIPEF, said: “This has been another inspired collective effort between SNIPEF and its education partners to whom we are extremely grateful.

As a result of their commitment and co-operation apprentices will be able to progress with their qualification and reduce the amount of catch up work required as the sector restarts and colleges re-open.”

Sam Thomson, Curriculum Manager for Plumbing, Electrical Installation and Schools at Glasgow Kelvin College and a Senior SQA Verifier, said: “The SNIPEF apprentices are at a critical stage in their education and it is important that we keep disruption to their training to a minimum.

“The task forces have achieved a great deal in a very short space of time and once a satisfactory alternative is in place for the theory assessments, they will turn their attentions to the issues related to practical assessments.

“This initiative, which means that work can be done remotely, has also gone some way to easing the pressures of social distancing at colleges across Scotland.”

Alistair Wylie, Head of Technology, Engineering, and Construction Qualifications at SQA, including its portfolio of plumbing courses, said: “The collaborative approach adopted by SNIPEF and its partners, to take the necessary action that has allowed Modern Apprentices to continue with their learning, and development throughout the crisis, is to be applauded.

“This is a fantastic example of educators, and industry coming together to support young people though this exceptionally challenging period, and I thank everyone involved for their collective efforts.”

SNIPEF has a total of 807 apprentices at 18 colleges across every part of Scotland currently in training and is keen to ensure that they are continuing to engage with their learning programmes during their enforced layoffs.

Where traditional methods of assessment are not possible because of the temporary closure of colleges and post-opening social distancing regulations, alternative methods of assessment have been created which provide for apprentices to undertake these from the safety of their own homes. The Education Trust has provided Amazon vouchers as an incentive and work progress is being actively followed up.

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