Sentinel training packs a punch with plumbing and heating students

Plumbing and heating apprentices studying towards National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) are now benefiting from special online training and in-class training packs prepared by industry-leading water treatment specialist Sentinel. Since launching, Sentinel’s training resources have been snapped up by higher education institutions wanting to equip apprentices with skills in best practice water treatment. The work-based apprentices are finding that the materials – which are often used as revision aids for central heating exams – fit in well with other coursework during their day-release visits to college.

One such example is Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, an umbrella organisation that oversees the operation of three member colleges, Coleg Llandrillo, Coleg Menai and Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor. Employing 2,000 staff and delivering courses to around 27,000 students across Anglesey, Conwy, Denbighshire and Gwynedd, the Grŵp aims to support the economy in North Wales by arming students with competitive skills and qualifications.

This ethos certainly applies to the college’s plumbing and heating apprentices, who spend one day a week on campus looking to attain both NVQ Level II and III as part of a forward-thinking four-year training scheme.

“Our course covers many aspects of the plumbing and heating industry, including correct water treatment for both new and existing heating systems. Water treatment is vital for boiler and system protection and efficiency, but many installers don’t have the adequate knowledge in this area. For example, a lot of installers assume problems only exist in older systems, they don’t realise that new systems also need to be treated,” explained Chris Walling, Tutor and Work-Based Assessor of the Apprenticeship Department.

Indeed, Mr. Walling is correct; research shows that approximately 87% of boiler call-outs are to systems without correct water treatment. The state of system water impacts heating system performance, boiler warranties and customer satisfaction, however, current national course material doesn’t cover water treatment in any detail.

It is this deficit of information that drove Sentinel to develop a range of tools and services for education institutions, which could be used to help improve the understanding of best practice water treatment in the classroom. Daniel Cheung, UK Trade Marketing Manager for Sentinel, explained:

“As specialists in lifetime boiler protection, we see it as our responsibility to help educate the industry - especially the next generation of heating and plumbing engineers - on the best and most effective methods of achieving lifetime boiler protection. The knowledge we’ve laid out in our training materials gives students the opportunity to learn best practice water treatment as standard. These skills will help them to stand out in the workplace, deliver superior services, and gain the confidence of employers and customers alike.”

Aware of the crucial nature of water treatment, Mr. Walling proactively set about finding suitable revision material that would help his apprentice students prepare for their forthcoming central heating exam: “I looked at various online materials to review content, but when I came across the online training at the Sentinel Academy, it stood out from others. The information was relevant and of high quality, and I knew it would be handy knowledge for the apprentices.”

Sentinel’s online training courses and training packs (known as Sentinel Partner Packs) contain the culmination of Sentinel’s 25+ years’ experience in research, testing, product innovation and application, which has been expertly whittled down into a series of easy-to-follow steps, visual aids, facts and bite-sized chunks of information. The materials are presented in a logical and buildable way, making the training suitable for all levels of competency. Content centres on the Sentinel System of ‘clean, protect, maintain’, a simple best practice approach that helps plumbing and heating engineers to deliver the highest levels of boiler and heating system protection for the life of those components.

“Sentinel’s Partner Packs are great; containing lots of relevant, easy-to-digest information. We were even supplied with a turbidity tube, which we used in the workshop. That kind of attention detail is much appreciated as it introduces the students to relevant technologies – all of them are now familiar with the purpose and application of a turbidity tube,” said Mr. Walling.

Sentinel’s online training modules proved equally useful, with Mr. Walling extolling the virtues of being able to put the course on a projector for group learning and discussion, or letting students progress through the information alone.

“I also value the non-promotional nature of Sentinel’s training; courses we’ve looked at in the past from other technology suppliers have been too brand-focused. I find that students switch-off if the content is excessively commercial. The Sentinel course is not like that; it’s far more informative and education-focused,” he said.

“Sometimes we do reciprocal visits with other colleges, so we can share best practice. On the most recent visit I mentioned the Sentinel online course and how good it was, so I’m sure there will be more colleges signing up to the Sentinel Academy as word spreads,” concluded Mr. Walling.

Coleg Llandrillo, North Wales, has snapped up Sentinel training for its plumbing and heating students
Plumbing students at Llandrillo College are benefitting from Sentinel's in-class water treatment training packs (pictured with Chris Walling (R), Tutor)