What is a Group Competence Scheme?

Since announcing the launch of our new Group Competence Scheme (GCS), we have received a number of questions from installers and other industry stakeholders about what the scheme is and its impact on the rest of the gas industry. This news article attempts to answer some of these important questions.

What is a Group Competence Scheme?

The Group Competence Scheme was first launched by Energy & Utility Skills (EU Skills) who produced a scheme for Employers to have an alternative to ACS assessments.

What is a Group Competence Scheme?

Is GCS an equivalent to the Gas Safe Register?

No. The Group Competence Scheme and the Gas Safe Register are two completely different things. GCS is not in competition with Gas Safe. For a company to undergo a GCS assessment, the assumption is that their gas engineers are already registered with Gas Safe (i.e. Gas Safe registration is still a requirement of the GCS scheme). GCS is a certification standard for a business, rather than an individual installer.

Is there an existing industry equivalent to GCS?

GCS was developed as an alternative to the Accredited Certification Scheme (ACS). An ACS assessment centre would require a business to take its gas engineers out of work for a period of time to undergo their competency assessment off site. GCS is different because its assessment regime instead takes place on site by observing the gas engineer as they go about their normal work.

Why is GCS an improvement on ACS?

Legally, a gas engineer is required to renew their qualifications every 5 years in order to continue as a Gas Safe Registered installer. ACS therefore conducts an assessment every 5 years in an expensive and costly off site exercise for the business, when they already carry out constant monitoring of their staff comptence. Also, since the Matters of Gas Safety change every 6 months, the business is put at risk if a regulation change comes into effect during the 5 year assessment period.

GCS provides an assessment regime which takes place on site. It is both more cost effective and uses real time evidence to monitor compliance. The business is therefore more assured that their gas engineers are working to the most up-to-date safety competences.

Can a sole trader gas engineer apply for GCS?

GCS is intended to certify companies employing gas engineers. Certification is awarded against that company's management system and confirms that their policies and procedures are robust and compliant.

Is there formal industry backing for GCS?

Yes. Stroma Certification’s Group Competence Scheme is accredited by UKAS and we work with EU Skills to maintain the standards of our scheme. The original EU Skills scheme is fully endorsed by the Industry Standards Setting Body as well as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). It was introduced following a suggestion from HSE that there should be an alternative to ACS.

Is Stroma Certification registered with Gas Safe?

No, there is no requirement for Stroma to be on the Gas Safe Register. We undertake no gas installation work as a company. We do employ Gas Safe Registered individuals and time served tradespersons who comprise our assessment and technical support teams in order to assist our other scheme members.

Does GCS give large firms an unfair advantage over SMEs?

No. Stroma Certification represents both larger firms and small businesses as we operate a number of different certification schemes across the industry. GCS is open to any gas firm. Whilst a gas engineer can renew their Gas Safe registration every 5 years; for a business undertaking ACS assessments, this competency renewal procedure can feel like a constant duplication of effort depending on the numbers of gas engineers they employ. GCS offers an assessment regime to minimise this disruption. It is not intended as a cost cutting exercise.

Our Competent Person Schemes does provide certification for work such as oil and unvented heating systems (as well as many more types of work undertaken by installers in all major trades). This allows an installer to self-certify their installations as compliant with the Building Regulations and saves them money in costly notification fees. A full list of measures and types of work for which Stroma Certification can operate a Competent Person Scheme can be seen on our website. Our installer members are provided with free technical support via phone and email – allowing them to speak to a qualified individual about any technical matter. We also provide regular scheme and free technical updates to our members via email and our online members area to ensure any CPD requirements are met.

Stroma has worked for and with the building and construction industry for 15 years. We are committed to representing our members and the wider industry to ensure they have every opportunity for their business to thrive.

If you have any other questions about GCS which you would like answering, please complete this online form and we will add the answers to this article. Alternatively, please call 0845 621 11 11 (ext.622) to speak with a member of our friendly team.

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