One of the recommendations of the 2014 Stockerl Report was for a new training portal to be established. FIS training manager Jeremy Clayton outlines how FIS is responding to this and what it will mean for the sector.

The Interiors Sector Training Review, also known as the Stockerl Report, was carried out by Dr Karin Stockerl in 2014. It is the most up to date and comprehensive study of our sector. In it, Dr Stockerl  recommended that a new training portal be set up, one that would improve the communication of interiors sector careers, training provision and grant offers.

In response, FIS is partnering  with Reference Point, a specialist software company that developed the new CSCS SmartCard  technology, and SkillSight, an online service for managing qualification information, to create CourseBank.

CourseBank will provide an online marketplace for all training providers promoting courses that are relevant to FIS members. CourseBank will be a training  one-stop-shop, helping FIS  members to source funding, book the most appropriate training course and manage the joining process, through to the seamless uploading of qualifications onto any successful trainee’s CSCS card. It will become the heart of the new online Skills Hub, due to be launched later this year, where funding links will sit alongside all relevant sector training courses on the FIS website.

Training providers wanting to offer their courses via CourseBank will be able to take  advantage of a well-structured online process that  incorporates online trainee payment  options and the uploading of  competency  outcomes as part of the solution. Only those training providers that are FIS associate members will be permitted to carry the Associate Member logo against their entries to indicate that the courses being advertised have been validated by FIS.

The Stockerl Report stated that over 60,000 site operatives work in the UK finishes and interiors sector and that up to two‐thirds are without formal qualifications. The report also pointed out that the majority of contractors in our sector are SMEs and that these businesses have limited resource to access and investigate available training and associated CITB grants. Most do not claim any grant, have no CITB-compliant training plans and do not employ apprentices. Training of new entrants is often informal and  unstructured  meaning that most craft operatives  remain without any formal qualifications.

To address these key findings, FIS wants to significantly increase the number of operatives in the interiors sector that are adequately qualified to NVQ Level 2 and that hold a  related skilled worker CSCS card by 2020. CourseBank will help to  facilitate this by being the first port of call when searching and engaging with relevant training providers.

CourseBank also links to  SkillSight, a resource management system that helps companies  manage workers’ training history and CSCS cards. SkillSight  technology interfaces with the CSCS SmartCard and maintains an up-to-date record of an individual’s progress and career training,  highlighting when particular  aspects are due for renewal.

One added benefit of SkillSight is that it can also assist with the  identification of fraudulent CSCS cards. The problem of CSCS card fraud was highlighted by the BBC last year.

CSCS chief executive Graham Wren said: “Thorough card checks must be carried out before allowing workers on-site and employers need to ensure workers have the correct qualifications for the work they do.

“More companies are realising that a CSCS SmartCard is a simple and cost-effective way to do this and maintain a robust process. By using a card reader, tablet or smartphone, anyone can instantly check the  validity of a card and the qualifications held by the card holder.”

For its part, CITB was already  investigating some test centres where the criminal activity was alleged to have taken place, which led to five centres being shut down and another eight being under investigation.

By engaging with the new portal, FIS members will become core users, promoting and extending the use of the technology within the CSCS card scheme and reducing the opportunity for fraudulent behaviour. FIS chief executive David Frise said: “The more evidence that can be reliably supplied on-site the better. This type of technology really helps us to be at the forefront of developing a solid reputation for a skilled workforce.”

FIS and Reference Point are working together to make it as easy as possible for members to get the right cards for their  workers. With site-ready  operatives, members are able do what they do best, safely and effectively. This FIS initiative could become a technological blueprint for the whole construction sector.

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Jeremy Clayton