Making the grade
The ongoing pandemic brought a unique set of challenges when it came to ECS assessments and the processing of SJIB grading applications. But, as always, our team successfully adapted and rose to those challenges, introducing new routines to ensure an uninterrupted service that has helped contractors continue working
Like everyone at SELECT, the Employment and Skills team had very little time to prepare for the COVID-19 lockdown. Thankfully, arrangements were made to give everyone laptops
so we could work from home, and a switch to Office 365 proved a timely move. What would we have done without Microsoft Teams?
With these measures in place, we then considered what our initial priorities were and made contingency plans to enable us to meet our responsibilities and provide the appropriate support for the industry.
Firstly, we were concerned for those individuals whose SJIB Grade (ECS) cards had recently or would shortly, expire and who subsequently might not have been permitted to return to sites post-lockdown. We therefore produced a list of those individuals holding an SJIB Grade (ECS) card with an expiry date between October 2019 and October 2020. That list was then spilt up and distributed amongst our administrators.
As soon as we began working from home, the team updated each individual’s record with an extended expiry date. Once our commercial card-printing partner was operational, we sent everything over to them to produce new cards with the extended expiry dates. Towards the end of June, when a small contingent of staff was allowed back into The Walled Garden under strictly controlled conditions, arrangements were made for the cards to be posted out. We had a wee cottage industry going where we would meet in the car park of The Walled Garden, maintaining physical distancing, drop off cards that were ready to be posted, collect whatever supplies were needed for the next round and start all over again. It felt like a military operation and by the end of July, 4,000 replacement cards had been successfully distributed.
“Over the past few months, we have all had to think outside the box and work at ways of delivering and meeting people’s expectations”
This initiative meant that when we entered Phase Two of the Scottish Government Route Map, when non-essential construction work could restart, individuals had cards that would enable them to work on sites.
While the team was processing new cards, our old database was put to bed and we began working on the development of the SJIB section on SELECT’s new database, iMIS.
Throughout this period there were a lot of meetings, and testing and development work was carried out on the new database. Working live also brought its challenges. The team has worked incredibly hard to get us to where we are today and the finishing touches are now being made.
There was an initial backlog of grade card applications, comprising those which had been received just before the end of March and those posted to the SJIB while The Walled Garden was completely closed. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, it was not possible for us to retrieve this mail, however, as soon as we could we collected and processed those applications.
Work has now already begun on the development of an online assessment process for grading applications, further details of which will be announced over the coming months.
Taking assessments online
Having completed the grade card extension process, our next task was to reinstate the processing of ECS Health, Safety and Environmental Assessments.
We reviewed our practices in light of our new mode of working and focused on being able to handle requests and mark assessments in a timely way.
Electrical contracting businesses are asked to complete the normal ECS Request Application for the operative(s) concerned and post it to The Walled Garden. The administrators manage the requests and create the assessments, which are emailed rather than posted to the company contact.
Now that contractors are back at work, many have arranged to have more invigilators so that they can complete the assessments in-house while still maintaining physical distancing.
In order for the completed ECS Assessments to be marked quickly and accurately, we request that the assessments are posted to The Walled Garden. These are collected and distributed to the administrators every week and the results are emailed to the appropriate company contact.
We are now focused on being able to hold ECS Assessment sessions for self-employed and unemployed operatives. In the past, we held sessions on Friday afternoons where approximately 20 people would complete the assessment at The Walled Garden.
Due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, such sessions will obviously not take place for the foreseeable future, so we have had to look at alternative delivery methods.
We have trialled virtual sessions via Zoom and GoToMeeting, but these have proven to be very labour intensive to set up and many operatives who are not comfortable with computers have struggled. We
are conscious that operatives are often already nervous about completing the ECS Assessment,
and we are keen to alleviate any unnecessary stress, and ensure that they have a positive experience.
Therefore, we have subsequently researched and liaised with Jenny Cryans, SELECT’s Training Manager, and are making arrangements to hold virtual sessions via a platform called Class Marker. Jenny and her team have been using the platform for SELECT courses and it has been well received, so it seems like the way forward.
Over the past few months, we have all had to think outside the box and work at ways of delivering and meeting people’s expectations. I believe that many of the changes implemented during this period will continue to be useful options in the longer term.
It has been a challenge, but one I feel we have risen to.
We are happy to continue to receive SJIB grading applications, preferably through the post or alternatively via email@example.com
The team behind the scenes
Left to right: Riki Gillespie, Employment Affairs Administrator, Gilian Hogarth, Employment Affairs Administrator, Nicola Walker, Employment Affairs Administrator and Nicky Deighan, Employment Affairs Administrator