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BESA Academy launches new era in online learning

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has opened its new online Academy delivering a comprehensive programme of training courses, assessments and CPD for individuals, employers and training providers in the building services sector.

Individuals will be able to access all of the resources needed to improve their existing skills and learn new ones while also keeping their qualifications and competencies up to date. The Academy will also help employers and managers ensure their workforces are fully qualified and able to comply with legislation and industry standards.

It will also aid employers’ efforts to plug skills gaps by making access to the appropriate training easier, more flexible and, therefore, more appealing to a wider section of the population. All training modules are accessible from a smartphone, tablet or laptop whether the user is at home, at work or on the move.

Training providers can also outsource the online learning elements of their courses to BESA freeing them up to focus on the aspects that require physical participation. This development is particularly timely as many colleges are wrestling with social distancing restrictions that limit the amount of time students can spend on sites.

“Online learning really came into its own during the lockdown months,” said BESA president Neil Brackenridge. “It proved the value of being able to access course materials from anywhere and at any time, which is exactly the BESA Academy model.

“Our plans were already well advanced before the crisis hit, but the surge in demand for this kind of ‘blended’ model of online and physical training accelerated our efforts. The industry is moving rapidly into a new era and needs training that can adapt to our changing requirements.”

Employers and workers benefit from the fact that courses can be accessed at any time and in any place so improving convenience and limiting disruption to working time. All courses are flexible and can be completed in ‘bite sized chunks’. Each Academy candidate receives an online ‘skills passport’ storing all their completed training, competencies, qualifications and CV in one place for ease of access.

The BESA Academy will also help make specific building engineering training more affordable.

“A lot of colleges had been forced to discontinue some engineering apprenticeships, for example, because they are more expensive and complex than other types of training,” said BESA’s director of training and skills Helen Yeulet.  “Delivering more of the course content remotely will make it more economically viable.”

The Academy also aims to attract a new generation of engineers to the industry with younger people, in particular, used to accessing learning materials remotely and at their own convenience.

“This will help engineering employers looking to modernise their approach and appeal to the 18 to 35 group, in particular,” said BESA vice president Claire Curran. “With the new working from home culture, we must introduce greater flexibility into our employment and training models.”

The Academy will also help with the process of re-deploying workers facing redundancy in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, who can quickly pick up additional skills to move from one part of the sector to another – so keeping vital expertise within the industry.

“Whole life learning is a crucial part of the Academy model,” said Ms Yeulet. “There will also be demand for re-skilling suited to modern methods of working, such as the increased use of digital systems and off-site manufacture.”

The industry’s need to improve diversity is also reflected in the promotional material for the Academy, which features figures (‘BESA bods’) representing people from different gender, racial, age and disability backgrounds.

“The courses offered by the Academy demonstrate the wonderful opportunities in building engineering that are open to people from all backgrounds,” said Mr Brackenridge. “The industry requires a much more diverse workforce than the one we currently have to meet the rapidly expanding range of skills we now need.

“The growth in online learning reflects the evolving way modern engineers work and will help us promote our careers to a much broader audience – many of whom would have previously assumed our industry had nothing to offer them.”

The Academy is launching with the support of several BESA affiliate members who have provided valuable training resources and more courses will be added in the coming months.

One launch highlight is the BESA Health and Safety Environment course and test in partnership with Mitsubishi Electric.  This six module programme covers the latest requirements for keeping workers safe and meeting new site operating procedures.

With many of the industry’s test centres currently struggling to clear their backlogs following the lockdown period, BESA expects rapid take up of this course because it can be accessed, completed and the test assessed online at the candidate’s convenience.

A suite of free CPD courses is also being provided via the Academy supplied by BESA affiliate members Airflow, Altecnic, Flamco, HASL, Kingspan, TATA Steel and Swegon.

“These valuable resources are free for everyone in the industry thanks to the great support and generosity of our affiliates,” said Ms Yeulet. “We look forward to working with other members and training providers to create lots more engaging course content in the coming months.”

Mitsubishi Electric’s marketing manager Rachel Lekman said the company was delighted to be supporting the Academy launch. “We hope this will be a long-term collaborative relationship that can help to improve technical knowledge, standards and, in particular, develop the next generation of installers.”

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