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The EPIC Story Continues

A longer-term strategy for members to address skills-enhancement initiatives through EPIC

By Clive Webb, managing director, EPIC Training and Consulting Services Ltd

EPIC, the national group training association for the extractive and mineral-processing industries, was effectively formed about 25 years ago after relevant trade associations (now subsumed into the Quarry Products Association) gave an undertaking to government to maintain the same level of training if the then statutory industry training board was disbanded. EPIC and the products and services it currently offers have evolved under the close direction of its members since that time. The current mission of EPIC is to spearhead the delivery of a world-class competent workforce for its members. The current vision is that EPIC will be generally recognized as the employer membership-based group training association for all employers in the extractive and solid mineral-processing industries to improve the skills and knowledge of people employed, and to be employed, and thereby improve members’ business competitiveness at home and abroad.

In response to relatively recent government policy on the need to support sector skills councils, EPIC members chose to support Proskills on the basis that it would consider strategic skills needs and improve the level of public funding to address such needs. It was agreed by all the founder members of Proskills at the time of its formation that Proskills would not deliver any training. EPIC members agreed to continue to support EPIC as their national membership-based group training association.

The current understanding is that Proskills should, for the EPIC members in the extractive and mineral-processing industries, assist members in identifying their strategic skills needs for the future and aim to influence or attract a fair share of public funding appropriate to the size and importance of these industries. For its part, EPIC should assist Proskills in meeting the requirements of its roles and, at the same time, directly deliver or arrange the delivery of any skills-enhancing initiatives under the direction and control of its employer members.

What should EPIC do in the future?

Employer members want EPIC to continue in its role of directly delivering and/or arranging the delivery of EPIC Council-agreed skills-enhancement initiatives to the membership under the direction and control of the membership. It should at the same time continue to assist Proskills in identifying the strategic needs of the members and in influencing or attracting a fair share of public funding to meet those needs.

How should it be done?

An outline rolling strategic and an annual plan will be agreed by the EPIC Training and Education Committee members and be endorsed by the EPIC Council (representing all the members). The plans will include strategic targets, milestones and accountabilities to ensure effective controls are established and significant achievements are gained.

Links with the HSE’s QNJAC

The EPIC Council was also recently called upon by the HSE’s Quarries Joint Advisory Committee (QNJAC) to consider relevant strategic indicators in the area of education and training which, if promoted to employers, should contribute to the achievement of the HSE’s Hard Target. The following was recently submitted by the EPIC Council.

KEY POINTS

General

  • Everyone is supportive of the need to have a fully competence-assured industry by 2010.
  • Each employer should follow what he/she considers the best appropriate route to achieve a competence-assured workforce by 2010.
  • The employers who employ the majority of employees in the extractive and mineral-processing industries currently support, in the main, the N/SVQ route for employees, the EPIC Contractor Safety Passport route for contractors and the EPIC Driver Skills Card Scheme route for hauliers, all of which have started to address competence assurance for key parts of the workforce and will evolve over time to fully address this requirement.

Employees
(Primarily employed in operations and operations-linked roles)

  • For existing employees the strategic indicator should be 20,000 N/SVQs or equivalent qualifications achieved by 2010.
  • New-entrant employees should be registered and working towards the relevant N/SVQ or equivalent within 12 months of joining the extractive and mineral-processing industries.
  • By 2010 all supervisors and managers should be actively engaged in a CPD scheme.
  • In principle there will be active support for both the new University of Derby distance-learning course and the Camborne modular MSc, but more detailed information on the final syllabi is required before any firmer commitment can be given at this stage.

Contractors

  • For contractors currently covered by the EPIC Contractor Safety Passport Scheme, the strategic indicator should be 20,000 valid Passports or equivalent awards held.
  • New-entrant contractors should achieve a valid Passport or equivalent award within six months of working in the extractive and mineral-processing industries. Where new-entrant contractors do not hold an EPIC Contractor Safety Passport or equivalent, they will be given a fully comprehensive health and safety induction as well as a full site induction.

(nb. EPIC Contractor Safety Passports are not currently full measures of competence assurance. They do measure whether a contractor has been trained and tested on some general and quarry-specific health and safety knowledge, but are not designed to usurp any site-specific inductions. They have been designed to save time by indicating to the local site manager that some general and quarry-specific health and safety knowledge has been covered before the contractor arrives at the site).

Hauliers

  • All drivers used by QPA members are required to hold a valid EPIC Driver Skills Card by certain target dates.
  • The Highways Agency has recognized the EPIC Driver Skills Card scheme in its current Workforce Registration/Skill Card Requirements for Suppliers pamphlet.

(nb. EPIC is currently establishing how the EPIC Driver Skills Card scheme also inter-relates with the legal and insurance requirements for risk assessments, the CSCS white construction-related occupational card for hauliers and the statutory regulations (HSE and pending EU regulations for drivers).

Conclusion

EPIC continues to work with all employers and stakeholders in the extractive and mineral-processing industries, as shown in the accompanying schematic (fig. 1), to ensure that all its products and services are relevant.

EPIC would welcome comments on any of the above. Contact Clive Webb at: EPIC Training and Consulting Services Ltd, Alban Row, 27–31 Verulam Road, St. Albans, Herts AL3 4DG; tel: (01727) 869008.

The above article contains the strategic issues for EPIC members agreed at the EPIC Council meeting held on 23 February 2007.

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