A new body, BSE Skills Ltd, has been appointed by the four UK governments to oversee vocational training in electrical, plumbing and HVAC.

BSE Skills has been jointly formed by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA), Scotland’s Electrical Trade Association SELECT, and the Scottish & Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation (SNIPEF).

The three trade bodies have joined forces to secure an historic agreement from the four UK governments to manage and develop apprenticeships, qualifications and national occupational standards for the building services engineering sector – the first time that trade bodies have received a government commission to carry out this work.

The government-sponsored sector skills council, SummitSkills, was the managing body until it ceased trading in 2017 due to insufficient funding. Now, following a four-nation tender process, the central and devolved governments have turned to the three organisations in order to ensure a secure future for vocational training in these crucial specialist sectors.

As member bodies, the trade associations were able to demonstrate close links with employers as well as UK-wide capacity as part of the bidding process. Together, their membership has more than 43,000 businesses representing around 342,000 operatives.

“This sets a wonderful precedent for the future of vocational training across the UK,” said BESA chief executive David Frise. “We are very grateful to the UK governments for having the foresight to recognise the value industry bodies can bring to the management and delivery of vocational training in vital technical sectors.

“It is also extremely heartening to see three complementary bodies working closely together in partnership to achieve a result that should go a long way to addressing the skills shortages being experienced by building engineering employers.”

Fiona Harper, Head of Employment Affairs at SELECT and The Secretary of the SJIB said: “Obtaining this agreement is testament to the hard work put in by all of the trade bodies involved. It was vital that we retained control over the development of our National Occupational Standards as these are the starting point for all the work we do in developing the training undertaken by our workforce.”

SNIPEF Chief Executive Fiona Hodgson added: “Everyone in the industry understands the importance of qualifications and it will be exciting to see how we can develop this work into shaping the training needs of the sector going forward. As new technologies and working practices develop, it’s vital that the industry controls its own destiny in the training and skills development.”

BSE Skills has also undertaken to align and co-ordinate all end dates for UK qualifications and modern apprenticeship frameworks in line with the rapidly changing landscape for apprentice recruitment and funding.

The industry bodies have also identified a need to establish mutual recognition and transportability of all BSE qualifications across the UK and to recognise the specific needs of each industry and in each region.