What's Behind a Quality Training Course?

There are countless industry training courses available but how are these courses devised and monitored? We look behind the scenes at the creation of Nu-Heat’s latest course in photovoltaic.
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• Renewable energy

July 1, 2010 - PRLog -- There are countless industry training courses available nationwide and increasing numbers of them cover renewable technology. But how are these courses devised and monitored? We look behind the scenes at the creation of Nu-Heat’s latest course in photovoltaic.

‘When installers attend a training centre, they’re not likely to think about how a course has been put together,’ says Steve Rhodes, Nu-Heat’s Training Centre Manager. ‘However, this will have a bearing on the quality of the training received. Courses can’t just be made up - they need to be approved by a recognized organization such as the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineers (CIPHE), SummitSkills or NICEIC.’

Nu-Heat’s courses, for example, are NICEIC approved and focus on the principles and suitability of the technology. They cover the different models available, benefits, health and safety and government grant funding. Hands-on experience in the courses utilizes the very latest, state-of-the-art products, offering essential, practical experience that will be used afterwards on-site.

Having run courses on underfloor heating, heat pumps and solar thermal for a number of years, Nu-Heat has a solid experience in putting together courses that enable candidates to learn about the technology behind products and installation requirements. The maximum number of candidates on any one course is eight with two trainers. Trainers have appropriate backgrounds, having worked as heating and plumbing engineers and trained to the A1 Assessor qualification. ‘Trainers often move into the role because they have an innate interest in the subject and enjoy passing on knowledge,’ says Steve.

There are a number of drivers for implementing a new course, not least the demand from installers. Interest in photovoltaic (PV) became obvious through classroom discussions during other training courses. The Feed in Tariff (FIT) incentive has unsurprisingly created a buzz amongst customers and installers are keen to add PV to their services. ’PV links well with our existing renewable products,’ comments Steve.  ‘Nu-Heat is adding PV to its product range later in the year it also makes good business sense to offer PV installation training.’  

As the training centre and its existing courses are already NICEIC approved, when it came to creating the new course it made sense to approach NICEIC about its own PV course and apply for an extension of scope.

The pre-requisites for the trainers for PV courses are 17th Edition Electrical and Part P Electrical and once this was ratified, the trainers attended a ‘train the trainer’ session at NICEIC’s premises in Chesterfield. Here they were shown the content of the course and went through the requirements of the assessments; practical, written and multiple choice. They then took the course and the exams themselves. Finally they ran through what needs to happen with the necessary paperwork. At the end of the session they received their ‘train the trainer’ certification.

A quality training course should:
Inform in a lively and engaging way
Convey quality information in the minimum amount of time
Instil confidence in working with the products
Give the installer good value for money
When the team returned to the centre they had to design a test rig that covers all the assessments laid down by NICEIC. This includes building in faults that candidates must discover, and building a fully operational side for electrical testing. As PV can be off-grid or on-grid, the assessment rig has to show both of these applications. The whole system needs to have the ability to be made live so that electrical circuits can be checked.

Finally, all the documentation has to be prepared and compiled into a working document, to include learning and exam / assessment material. There is scope to expand a course in certain areas as long as it remains in the NICEIC structure and it is only natural that input from candidates and trainers will help a course to develop.

‘Even after all this has been done – the course still can’t go live,’ says Steve. ‘Firstly, a pilot session has to be run to make sure that the course flows smoothly and makes complete sense. This also allows us to find out if there are any areas that need more detail – and whether we need any extra coffee breaks to be scheduled in!’ The ‘trainees’ that attend the pilot course also have a valuable contribution. NICEIC then assesses the training centre to ensure that Nu-Heat is adhering to their guidelines – and only then is approval given to run the course.

The training team has to fit the creation of a new course into their normal training schedule, so it takes a long time from conception to completion. ‘In actual work terms,’ says Steve, ‘the new course will have taken around eight weeks to set up,’  

Steve believes that the best training courses offer a combination of professionalism with a relaxed atmosphere. “There are different levels of understanding and a new course needs to take that into account – it should be aimed at the individual and broken down into understandable sections. At the end of the day we are training installers who are driving our industry forward, so obviously we want to provide the highest quality training.’  

For information on Nu-Heat’s training courses call Milly on 01404 540616 or book a place online at www.nu-heat.co.uk/training. The PV course will be live in Summer 2010.
Source:Sue Cade
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Tags:Underfloor Heating, Heat Pumps, Solar Thermal, Renewables, Carbon Reduction, Training, Rhi, Mcs
Industry:Renewable energy
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