How training can help with fire industry changes

With the ‘Hackitt Report’ highlighting the need for competency in the industry, the FIA has introduced a new qualification to provide a comprehensive introduction to the Fire Detection and Alarm (FD&A) sector and a core understanding of BS 5839-1.

After the Grenfell Tower tragedy a report was commissioned by the Government, resultingly Dame Judith Hackitt’s ‘Building a Safer Future: Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety’ was published in May 2018. The report coined as the ‘Hackitt Report’ stated it was absolutely fundamental for whole scale cultural changes within the industry. There was a particular focus on the term competency, in fact it was mentioned 143 times. To be competent, persons must have sufficient knowledge, experience and skills needed to meet the requirements of the tasks related to the Scheme. Competent persons must have an awareness of their own limitations.

The FIA welcomed the Hackitt Report as we have been calling for many years for improvements to the regulatory environment and competency levels in the UK fire safety industry. Beyond calling for it, the FIA has been instrumental in ensuring that the industry is becoming more competent thorough providing a range of industry-best training courses for individuals and a membership criterion that demands company certification to a relevant third-party scheme. In these ways, it takes responsibility for both enabling competency in the sector and providing assurance that FIA members deliver credibility and the very highest quality in the provision of products and services.

Further to this, as part of a process of continuous improvement and based on consultation with its members, the FIA has just introduced a new and more concise Level 3 qualification entitled ‘Fundamentals of FD&A in Non-Domestic Premises’, which will join our extensive collection of industry recognised training and qualification.  This qualification aims to provide a comprehensive introduction to the Fire Detection and Alarm (FD&A) sector and a core understanding of BS 5839-1.

Our new Fundamentals Qualification comes from our commitment to driving the highest levels of competency within the industry. We are here to help and empower our members, end-users and the industry in order to further improve the safety of the public.

Taking our new standalone qualification can take either two or four days depending on what training you have previously taken and  is a great first step in your journey towards becoming a competent figure with in the figure.  

Here at the FIA, we deliver over 280 individual courses at 17 venues around the UK. This can cause confusion around what your qualification means. Let us take a closer look at what has happened regarding qualifications in the UK over the last few years and how this affects FIA AO Qualifications.

Having completed your qualification, you should now or very soon be in receipt of a certificate recognising your achievement.

FIA AO qualifications are registered on the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF). But what does that mean and why doesn’t my certificate tell me whether I have achieved an ‘Award’, ‘Certificate’ or ‘Diploma’? In short, certificates recognise learner achievement and the knowledge, understanding and skills demonstrated. Awarding organisations are under regulatory requirements to include certain information and should provide clear and unambiguous detail of the learner and of their achievement.

What changes have been made?

There has been a number of changes over the past decade as the 2010 National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ) were replaced with the Qualification and Credit Framework (QCF).
The title NVQ was kept for industries that had well established, recognised qualifications in place, however the structure of qualifications changed.

The new format was intended to be flexible. As credits were awarded for units achieved leading to completion of the qualification. Therefore, learners could pick and choose units to complete whilst they were gaining credits as they progressed. These credits were then recognised with the titles ‘Award’, ‘Certificate’ or ‘Diploma’ included on the face of the certificate. It was quickly realised, however, that there was too much focus on the structure of the qualification and not enough on validity.

In 2015, qualifications once again changed and the QCF was replaced with the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF). RQF was introduced to make management of qualifications simpler. The structure was changed to a more flexible model and the need to recognise qualifications as ‘Award’, ‘Certificate’ or ‘Diploma’ was removed.

What makes up a qualification?

As a guide, a Level 3 qualification is intended to be equivalent in complexity to an ‘A’ or ‘AS’ Level and is best described on the website as giving the ability to gain or apply a range of knowledge, skills and understanding at a detailed level and appropriate if you plan to go to university, work independently or (in some cases) supervise and train others in their field of work/.

The size of the qualification is expressed as the Total Qualification Time (TQT) which is stated in the qualification specification. TQT replaced ‘Award’, ‘Certificate’ or ‘Diploma’ as an expression of the length of the qualification. It is made up of Guided Learning Hours (number of hours under direct instruction of a teacher, lecturer or tutor) and Directed Learning Hours (number of hours learning other than under the direct instruction of a teacher, lecturer or tutor). It is also made up of Invigilated Assessment (the number of hours assigned to assessment, details of format and structure will also be included in the qualification specification.

There is no requirement to include TQT on the certificate, although it must be clearly stated in the qualification specification and serve as guidance to centres providing the learning necessary to achieve award. Some centres may take a longer time than others and the effect of this can be seen in the centre results.


In short, the RQF is straightforward. The RQF provides a single, simple system for cataloguing all qualifications regulated by us. It’s like a bookcase in a library, with qualifications indexed by their ‘level’ and ‘size’. Qualifications at any specific level can be very different from one another, for example in their content and purpose. The more complex and difficult the qualification, the higher the level of it. Qualifications can be made of smaller units. Within the framework there are eight levels of qualification plus three entry levels.