Training: Room for improvement with Apollo Fire

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Jess Mann, Customer Journey Manager at Apollo Fire, talks competency, Responsible Persons and CPD training

Training is essential for ensuring competency in any industry, but it is especially crucial when it comes to life safety products. Jess Mann, Customer Journey Manager at Apollo Fire, understands the importance of training in achieving their company’s purpose of keeping people safe from fire every second of every day.

IFSJ Editor Iain Hoey sat down with Jess to discuss the challenges of competency in the industry and the various types of training that Apollo offers to raise competency levels and contribute to a safer built environment.

What does training mean to Apollo?

Our purpose is simple; to keep people safe from fire every second of every day. Training plays an integral role in achieving our purpose. We offer a range of training so our customers can specify, design, install, commission and maintain our products. We manufacture life safety products and we have a duty of care to ensure our products are used correctly.

Our team at Apollo is diverse. Included in the team is long serving, Senior Technical Support Engineer, Warren Moyle who has trained our customers worldwide for over 30 years. His wealth of knowledge and expertise on our product range is invaluable.

Our sales team are internally trained on our product range, they develop and deliver bespoke Continued Personal Development (CPD) courses and product training to our customers. It is important to us that all people with customer facing roles are able to maximise the benefits of our products by sharing their knowledge which in turn helps the end user.

We are aware that there are competency challenges in our industry. We aim to increase our training offering to contribute to a safer built environment.

Why is there a lack of competency in the industry?

There could be several reasons for the lack of competency within the industry – from client demand outweighing the skill set in the country, financial implications, unethical business practices, or the way legislation is set up.

British Standard BS 5839 Part 1 defines a ‘Competent Person’ as a ‘Person with the relevant current training and experience, and with access to requisite tools, equipment, and information, capable of carrying out a defined task’. However, there is no clear framework or assessment criteria for measuring an individual’s competency.

As a global manufacturer we are aware from our international customer base that clear legislation has been in place in certain territories for some time, which has naturally led to a high competency level.

Do you see this improving in the future?

There have been changes to the legislation post-Grenfell. In 2022, the Buildings Safety Act included requirements for the ‘Responsible person’. In a further update to the Building Safety Act there will be inclusion of a policy for duty holder. ‘Duty holders’ will carry far more responsibility. They must ensure that anyone appointing a ‘Principal Designer’, ‘Principal Contractor’, or other person who carries out building or design work, will take all reasonable steps to ensure the appointee meets competency requirements.

Appointees are under a duty to inform the client if they no longer satisfy a competency requirement. The accountability is on the appointee and the contractor and not elsewhere in the chain. This legislation intends to create accountability, and to encourage companies to seek adequate training for their teams, with the hope of building a safer future.

In 2020, the ‘Setting the Bar’ report, written by the Competence Steering Group, a collection of experienced industry volunteers post-Grenfell, detailed how competency could be proven.

243. Recommendation: The industry should adopt a framework for all the installer sectors working on in-scope buildings that can be applied to other project types. The framework will consist of:

  • Accredited third party certification of companies
  • Level 2 or 3 qualifications for individuals
  • A card scheme such as, but not limited to, the CSCS
  • CPD refresher training and the maintenance of individual skills
  • All installers have a core knowledge of fire safety in buildings – training to be standardised and made mandatory.

This report has already created a higher demand for different types of training since its release. And it’s likely that the new ‘duty holders’ policy will do the same.

Can you tell us more about these types of training?

A Level 3 Award in the fire alarm installation sector could be a Level 3 Award in the British fire alarm installation standards for non-domestic properties – BS 5839-1. This typically is a 4–5-day course with an exam which is equivalent to an A Level.

There are various training providers and manufacturers which offer a course like this. Some of our team recently visited ‘Zzeus Training’ in Lincoln, an EAL Level 3 OFQUAL approved qualification in the Requirements of Fire Detection and Fire Alarm Systems for Buildings BS 5839-1:2017. This training course exceeded our expectations. The attendees participated in designing, installing, and commissioning a fire system.

Our team managed to network with other attendees across two groups. It was a pleasure to see customers who have been installing systems for over 20 years still learning so much. It just goes to show how important this training really is.

CPD is another form of training. These courses are designed to help individuals’ learning and growth. Many CPD accredited courses are free from manufacturers and vary from an hour’s virtual session to a full day of product training.

These types of courses have been and will continue to raise the competency in our industry. However, getting the entire industry up to the expected standard will take many years. The costs for a Level 3 Award plus ‘time off the road’ for numerous engineers will be high and some will view it as being commercially cost prohibitive.

What kind of training does Apollo offer?

Apollo offer fortnightly virtual CPD training, face to face product training, on-demand webinars, and new product introduction training.

We have always loved face to face training, and we have a variety of free CPD accredited courses, all designed for different types of customers. Pre-COVID the methods of social interaction were different, Warren Moyle was hosting a training session almost every week, either in our office or at customer locations in the UK or worldwide.

Our most popular course is ‘Course A’ which is for anyone that’s new to the industry or requires a refresher around the fundamentals of fire detection installation. It includes detection principles and device selection. We often get experienced fire professionals who even come away having learned something new.

What is a training day like at Apollo?

When people come to us for a full day of training, we want to make it a memorable experience by going above and beyond. We include a tour of our factory and our different labs, including a live demonstration in our fire lab. We always receive good feedback from our customers’ experience – they get to see how the product is made and many are surprised that it is all still manufactured here in the UK, where we were founded over 40 years ago.

During lockdown, we adapted many of our courses to become virtual one-hour CPD sessions, continuing the growth of our attendees. We are pleased that our CPD sessions have reached customers in over 40 countries.

What CPD courses do Apollo offer?

Most of our CPD accredited virtual sessions are on industry topics such as: BS 5839-1, EN54-23, False Alarm Reduction and Hybrid-wireless fire detection. We aim to produce a few new courses each year, and we get our ideas from customer feedback forms.

The most frequent request that came out of the last few months was the desire for a CPD course that simply gives an overview of different fire systems and their uses. This has been made by our team and is pending certification. A special thanks to our partners, the FIA (Fire Industry Association) for third-party certifying our CPD’s as part of our membership.

We aim to understand the needs of our customers. After feedback, we found that some customers are not able to attend live CPD sessions so we created a host of bitesize product webinars on our website, which are available to watch on-demand. If they want to learn anything about features, benefits, applications for our different ranges, they can access these at any time, just visit our website.

We believe we offer a variety of training for our customers, but we are aware there’s always room to improve. We want to be a fundamental part of helping our customers showcase their competency going forwards. Training is critical to our vision of becoming the partner of choice for our customers.

This exclusive article was originally published in the May 2023 issue of International Fire & Safety Journal. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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