How Apprenticeships Deliver the Skills Employers Need

The fire safety industry is facing an ongoing short of skills and has been for many years. The combination of an ageing workforce and lack of sufficient replenishment, means changes are needed to attract the required new talent into the industry.

Xact Consultancy and Training offers two fire safety apprenticeship pathways: Level 3 Fire Safety Advisor and Level 4 Fire Safety Inspector. Apprenticeships can be a key developmental tool to support employers in attracting and developing a skilled and competent workforce, which is increasingly required in the ever-important area of fire safety. Learning is delivered by specialist fire safety tutors via a blended approach that includes both Xact’s Interactive Virtual Classroom and one-to-one sessions.

Employers, such as fire rescue services; NHS trusts; Housing Associations; the Education sector and others within the fire safety industry, are making use of these apprenticeships to upskill or retrain existing and new members of staff to become competent fire safety professionals. The individuals undertaking the apprenticeships are working in fire safety roles and balance this work alongside their learning and study with Xact as well as being supported in the workplace by an experienced member of staff.

Pairing an apprentice with a workplace mentor and/or a supportive and experienced line manager- from whom they can gain vital knowledge of the industry is essential. The more seasoned employee offers support to the apprentice by developing their skills and ensuring their learning is applied in real-work experiences. This approach builds confidence and competence as the apprentice progresses through the programme and beyond. The mentor’s support will help the apprentice complete tasks independently.

Xact was acquired by Assent Building Control in 2023. Their HR Manager, Jay Simpson, says preparation between mentor and mentee is vital. “Resources like training sessions, webinars and reading materials should be shared in good time as well as job shadowing opportunities”.

Jake Green, a mentor with Assent, passed through their own building control-related apprenticeship programme himself. “A lot of apprentices may feel out of their depth with their role initially but feel comfortable talking to their mentor. This means we can support them. 

“It’s important to build this trust and relationship, so the apprentice can come to you with any questions or queries they might have. Seeing the growth in confidence of an apprentice and their skills developing before your eyes is one of the most rewarding parts of being a mentor.

“As a mentor, your knowledge is tested every day by the questions that your mentee might have. They enhance your own knowledge and challenge what you know, giving you a fresh perspective of how you may have been working for several years,” he says.

Katie Trott is currently undergoing her Level 4 Fire Safety Inspector apprenticeship through Xact. She explains the benefit of continually having a mentor to refer to as part of the apprenticeship learning process. “There’s lots of evidence gathering and shadowing required as part of the apprenticeship, so you get to use what they teach you in practice once you’ve learnt the theory and regulations behind it. My colleagues eased me into the shadowing process gradually. I started out taking notes during visits or taking photos too if needed.

I’ve recently started to do my own visits and take the lead more but then you still have an experienced colleague with you for support if required. It’s a very supportive process and everyone in the department is so friendly and helpful, so I always feel comfortable asking questions.” You can read more about Katie's apprenticeship experience here.

Line managers or workplace mentors should not be daunted by their important role in an apprentice’s development. Xact’s Apprenticeship Mentors, selected from our experienced fire safety professional tutoring pool, support both the apprentice and line manager. Regularly reviewing the apprentices' progress in a meeting involving all three parties. At the progress review meetings, they review the apprentice training plan and identify potential opportunities that the line manager may be able to support, such as arranging future workplace activities to enable the apprentice to put the theory into practice.

Rachel Willis, Apprenticeship Manager at Xact comments, “Our apprenticeship offering is not just for those taking the first steps in their career. The Level 4 Fire Safety programme is ideal for those wanting to pivot into a new area of expertise or who have some experience in the broader fire safety industry and want to take their career in a new direction. Apprenticeships are helping to build a vital bridge to new skills in the sector that are increasingly in demand following the introduction of the Building Safety Act in 2022”.

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