Home or away – making the right training choice

Firms have been complaining about the skills shortage for years and their concerns show no signs of abating. In fact, the CBI's education and skills survey 2013 highlights that almost half of its respondents had 'acute concerns' about their ability to find highly-skilled workers in key sectors of manufacturing, construction and engineering in the coming years.

So if you can’t find well-qualified, experienced engineers and plant operators ‘ready-made’, perhaps you should be thinking about taking matters in hand and by improving the knowledge of your own staff. Of course, if a skills shortage is your problem, it’s unlikely that you’ll have the resources to do this in-house, so the solution is probably to use an external training supplier.

Expert training can be provided at specialist training centres or on-site at the steam–using organisation’s own premises, so which option is better?

There are, of course, pros and cons with both approaches. Some companies like the idea of bringing the training to them, since it eliminates the travel and accommodation costs of sending trainees to a training provider’s site. It also means training can be conducted in familiar surroundings on equipment that employees are using day-to-day.

On the other hand, expert training at a dedicated facility offers its own benefits. It gets employees away from their work environment to a place where there are no interruptions and the relaxed environment can actually help trainees absorb more information.

Sending employees on a course also helps to make them feel more valued and they get to meet like-minded delegates from other companies, allowing them to network and share experiences.

What’s more, the dedicated facilities of a specialist training centre may offer a host of other advantages.

For example, Spirax Sarco’s Cheltenham-based UK Steam Technology Centre is the only UK training facility to offer a fully-operational steam system with SCADA control. This, along with other facilities such as the on-site boiler, means equipment problems can be safely simulated with a trainee having to find and rectify realistic faults in a systematic and progressive programme of learning that builds their knowledge in a logical way. It also offers a hands-on approach that helps them retain what they’ve learned.

Whether they choose the on- or off-site training option, most responsible employers understand that the right training will improve their operations.

Taking steam systems again as an example, improved safety is naturally the first priority, and BG01 ‘Guidance on Safe Operation of Boilers’, published in 2011, specifically recommends that boiler operators and managers complete a Boiler Operative Accreditation Scheme (BOAS) course to promote safe and competent boiler operations. BG01 isn’t compulsory, but the HSE recognises it as good industry practice, so compliance is a good way to demonstrate to the regulator that you’re staying on top of health and safety.

But that’s not all. Lower fuel bills, higher productivity and reduced carbon emissions are also likely to result from better-trained boiler operator, so any upfront investment will typically be repaid with interest in subsequent operations.

Spirax Sarco provides a whole range of training courses covering the latest legislation and aspects of the design, operation and maintenance of steam systems.

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