Industry Technical Conference tackled engineer shortage

CESA director Keith Warren detailed the Brexit impact on the sector’s EU regulations. Credit: DenPhotography.CESA director Keith Warren detailed the Brexit impact on the sector’s EU regulations. Credit: DenPhotography.

The catering equipment industry has long suffered from a lack of engineering resource, therefore this was one of the topics under the microscope at the 2016 Industry Technical Conference, jointly organised by CEDA and CESA.

The discussion, taking place at the Nottingham Belfry Hotel on 12 October, opened with Combico’s technical training manager, Martin Dagnall, detailing the opportunities the new headquarters for the training provider’s parent company, the First Choice Group, will bring.

Opening next year, the new facility will feature three training rooms and three live kitchens to accommodate courses for up to 80 engineers. Dagnall feels that Combico will also be able to focus more on ACS qualifications too through the dedicated area. The firm is already approved by Logic Certification as an assessment centre and offers the COMCAT 1, 2 and 3 courses, CCN1 and CONGLP 1, plus an electrical competency course, among others. Furthermore it also runs COCAT courses to enable domestic equipment engineers to swap over to commercial catering appliances.

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“We tried to pick core sections that engineers need now,” explained Dagnall. “We can offer managed learner programmes to bring new people into gas engineering and build course bundles to turn people into catering equipment engineers in around 12 months.”

He also mentioned that there will be opportunities for government funding to turn ex-armed forces servicepeople into catering appliance engineers, a programme which was detailed further later in the day by Simon Osborne director of Cross Deck, an initiative which helps these former forces personnel back into civilian life. Cross Deck worked with CEDA to find a way to close the skills gap which could be a barrier to entry for service personnel to become catering equipment engineers, with Combico designing a course for complete gas training to ACS accreditations and electrical competence.

Cross Deck aims to start recruiting candidates from early 2017. “It’s not just about classroom training,” said Osborne. “We will put them through a period of work experience, and they are not just there to absorb, they can be productive too. After we identify good candidates, we will pair them with CEDA members for work placements, and they can undertake these while they are still serving in the military, so there would be no cost to distributors for this.”

After the placement, the candidate can be taken on by the dealer, or would be available for other CEDA members to take on. “We need engagement from the industry to help a pipeline of good candidates come through,” urged Osborne.

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