The Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) and the Electrical Distributors Association (EDA) have collaborated to create a new, industry specific Trade Supplier Apprentice Standard.

It is the first Apprenticeship to be designed for the merchant industry by experts in the industry, and is set to become the sector’s primary Level 2 qualification when it is launched to employers next year.

The Trade Supplier Level 2 Apprenticeship Standard has just been launched to more than fifteen training providers who will deliver the training programme across the UK. From January 2018, the new Standard will be offered to builders merchants through BMF Apprenticeships Plus.

During the presentation at the BMF’s headquarters in Coventry on 30 November, Vicky Ordish, Learning and Business Partner at Rexel UK and Trailblazer Chair, took the 50 delegates through the process of reaching approval for the Standard.

She explained that the process took almost three years from identifying what merchant apprentices require to developing an assessment plan and then sending to the Skills Funding Agency and OFQUAL for approval.

The aims for the Standard are to keep ahead of the changing marketplace, to add value to the apprenticeships, and to attract and then maintain apprentices by showing a clear path of progression in the business.

Margaret Fitzsimons, Director EDA, spoke about the collaboration that was required by all involved to achieve this standard. She said: “We took off your company hats and put on our industry hats to work together for the good of the standard.

“Created by wholesalers for wholesalers, this new entry-level apprenticeship reflects the substantial commitment and knowledge sharing from across the building, timber and joinery, kitchen installation and electro-technical sectors. It has been a pleasure to work with similar trade organisations and their members to pool our significant wholesaling experience.”

Trade Supplier Level 2 was developed as part of the government’s Trailblazer initiative. This encouraged groups of employers to work together to create robust apprenticeships for their own sector, to ensure that people have up-to-date workplace skills that are fully relevant to business and industry.

John Henry, Director of BMF Apprenticeships Plus (the BMF’s Apprenticeship Training Agency) said: “This employer-led qualification will give young people entering the industry an excellent grounding in merchanting and will raise the bar in terms of skills and knowledge at an early point in their careers. Having been in close communication with many businesses it is clear that the merchanting sector has been waiting for this new apprenticeship and I am confident of a significant take up by employers wishing to recruit and train new entrants and existing colleagues.”

The new Trade Supplier Apprenticeship Standard will replace the Trade Business Service framework apprenticeship, formerly used by merchants. The new Standard is aligned with the merchant working environment. Trade Supplier Apprentices will be trained and assessed on:

  • Dealing with customer sales at the trade counter and over the telephone
  • Understanding incoming deliveries, stock control and despatch
  • Processing customer orders and taking delivery of goods
  • Technical knowledge of the products and services offered
  • Using bespoke systems and equipment within their company
  • Communication and building relationships both internally and with customers

Trade Supplier Apprentices may work on the trade counter, or they can specialise in other roles in the trade business environment including sales, purchasing account management, logistics and administration.

The new Apprenticeship received approval from the Skills Funding Agency and OFQUAL earlier this autumn, and will be eligible for funding under the new Levy system.

Crawford Knott of Hawk Training, an Ofsted accredited Outstanding training provider added: “Boosting the level of skills and productivity in the UK is vitally important, even more so as we move into the post-Brexit era. Apprenticeship standards like this one will enable employers in the sector to harness new talent and support the development of industry-specific skills.”