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2 December 2019

Don't allow Brexit to undermine the construction industry


Plumbing and heating professionals across the UK are calling on politicians to make room amid the Brexit tumult to focus on critical changes needed to create a resilient and sustainable construction sector.


A joint election manifesto issued by the leading trade bodies for plumbing and heating professionals in Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales has highlighted four key areas where change is required: payment abuse; pensions; green economy targets; and skills. The changes are aimed at creating a fairer competitive landscape where firms can develop and thrive.


The call to the incoming government has been issued by SNIPEF – the Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation – and  APHC, the equivalent trade body for the industry in England and Wales. Together they represent 1,770 businesses and 25,155 plumbing and heating operatives.


SNIPEF has already given its backing to a campaign by the Specialist Engineering Contractors’ (SEC) Group calling for all general election candidates to commit to ending the widespread practice of late payments in the construction sector. SEC Group warns that this is having a damaging impact on building quality and mental health.


Continuing that theme, SNIPEF and  APHC say the bane of payment abuse is causing insolvencies across the sector, while encouraging poor standards of work and a reduction in investment. In addition, it is affecting the mental health of business owners worried about when or even if they will ever be paid for their work.


The trade organisations are urging legislation to impose penalties on serial late payers, while establishing the use of project bank accounts in the public sector. They also want new laws to protect cash retentions.


They are additionally pushing for amendments to current pensions legislation which is having devastating consequences for hundreds of UK plumbing and heating businesses.


Owners of firms that have provided pensions to their employees through a multi-employer industry scheme are being hit with staggering bills under what is known as Section 75 employer debt.


Calculated on a buy-out basis which is expensive, these payments – which are not necessarily required by the pension fund – are burying otherwise financially strong businesses under a mountain of unaffordable liabilities.


“This is taking a grave personal toll on the individuals involved,” SNIPEF chief executive Fiona Hodgson said.


“In the most extreme cases, we are seeing firms fold as a result of these liabilities. But with no incentive for businesses to grow, there is a further economic drag as many more are downsizing, cutting back on investment and declining to take on new apprentices.


“For those now in retirement, these Section 75 payments are putting them under threat of personal bankruptcy. The 2019-20 Pension Schemes Bill does not address any of these unintended consequences, which is why amendments are required to take account of multi-employer industry schemes.”


SNIPEF and  APHC have welcomed UK government targets to move to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, but warn that clear guidance is needed for these to be successful. They are seeking assurances that support will be available to upskill the current workforce, along with the introduction of a Licensing Scheme to ensure those working in the plumbing and heating industry have a minimum level of competence.


To address the on-going skills shortage in the sector, the trade bodies are calling for government support for apprenticeships. This includes backing for older entrants, where the costs for employers are higher.


“Plumbing and heating apprentice levels have not recovered from those pre-recession, during which they dropped by half,” APHC Chief Executive Officer John Thompson said. “We are now faced with a skills shortage, and in the light of Brexit the position is only likely to get worse.


“Skills are at the core of our industry, so there are serious long-term consequences for our industry if we don’t address this issue now.”


The full SNIPEF & APHC election manifesto can be accessed here.



23 September 2019

Have your say on the Plumbing & Heating SVQ and Modern Apprenticeship Framework

As a key partner in BSE Skills Ltd, SNIPEF is undertaking a consultation on the Plumbing & Heating SVQ and Modern Apprentice Framework (MAF).

Part of this consultation will see SNIPEF working with partners and engaging with employers, colleges and training providers, sharing the consultation documentation and receiving and coordinating all feedback.

An online consultation is now open to gather the views of as many industry stakeholders as possible about the revised National Occupational Standards (NOS) to ensure they reflect industry best practice.

As part of this consultation, you are invited to review the three documents below:

  1. Plumbing & Heating SVQ and MA Consultation Framework 2019 D01
  2. Plumbing & Heating MA Framework 2019 D01
  3. Assessment Strategy for BSE (2015)

Download the first PDF: Plumbing & Heating SVQ and MA Consultation Framework 2019 D01. You can then use this to fill in your details and make any comments.

Please think about the qualification and framework from the point of view of whether you have any current issues with it. For example – do they deliver the key core skills needed by aspiring, competent operatives? Are there any aspects of the job role that are not reflected in the SVQ and/or MAF? If you do have any comments, please identify what you think should either be removed or should be added. If you’re content, please tick the Fit For Purpose (FFP) box.

Please complete the consultation document and return it to alan.mcdonald7@ntlworld.com by Friday 18 October 2019. If you have any queries, contact martyn.raine@snipef.org


9 August 2019

SNIPEF calls for delay to VAT changes

SNIPEF has joined 14 other leading UK construction trade bodies in writing to the Government to share serious concerns regarding the implementation of reverse VAT charges, due on 1st October, calling for a delay in implementing the new rules.

If introduced, reverse charge VAT will have a significant negative impact on the industry, further increasing the burden on construction employers and seriously restricting cashflow in an industry that already suffers from late payment.

The reverse charge VAT could lead to a loss of productivity and reduced cash flow, leading job losses and tipping some companies over the edge. Small businesses are most vulnerable to potential damage, as they do not have the means to cope with further financial difficulties.

The letter to the Chancellor calls for the VAT changes to be pushed back by at least six months.

SNIPEF CEO Fiona Hodgson said:

“We are extremely worried about the impact of the impending changes to reverse VAT and the subsequent affect it will have on SNIPEF members.

Many businesses in the construction industry are already suffering due to rising material prices, high labour costs associated with skill shortages not to mention payment issues. The introduction of the reverse charge VAT will only add to this burden, particularly for small contractors that may be forced to shut down if they do not have the resources to cope with the proposed change in legislation.

The Government have introduced this change with little or no consultation and need to listen to the industry and at the very least delay the implementation of the charge.” 


27 June 2019

Perth apprentices top Scottish SkillPLUMB competition

Apprentices from Perth College UHI took home the top awards at the SNIPEF SkillPLUMB competition on Friday 21 June.

First place in both the lead and copper competitions were won by third-year apprentices attending Perth College UHI. Shaun McTavish, employed by McDonald & Buist Ltd, took home the first prize for lead, while the top prize in the copper competition went to Kyle McGeoghie, employed by William Combe & Son Ltd.

The lead competition saw second place go to Iain Winnard who attends Glasgow Clyde College and works for Blair Plumbing & Heating Solutions Ltd. Daniel McNeill of Forth Valley College and employed by Matheson Plumbing Co Ltd took home third place.

Second place in the copper competition was awarded to Samuel Henderson of Tullos Training Centre, employed by Derek Scott Plumbing & Heating. Third place was won by Connor Cruden of Moray College, who works for Neil Murray Housebuilders Ltd.

Following the competition, Shaun said, “I feel like I did really well and I enjoyed the whole competition experience; it was good to work under pressure like that. I found it a great experience competing and meeting lots of different people. I am really chuffed that I won.”

Kyle said, “I’m really happy to have won this year, it was a really tough competition and to end up in first place after coming second last year feels really great. I’m hoping I have done enough to have qualified for the UK final in Birmingham in November, but I will have to wait and see.”

Gordon Nisbet, Plumbing and Gas Lecturer at Perth College UHI was thrilled with the results. “We are very proud of the way Kyle and Shaun conducted themselves during the competition. The work they produced was to a very high standard and they both were worthy winners. They’re very good ambassadors for Perth College UHI and their respective employers.”

Fiona Hodgson, SNIPEF CEO said, “Our apprentices have demonstrated an exceptionally high standard of skills at this year’s SkillPLUMB competition, and we are honoured to showcase the high quality of apprentice training in Scotland. The apprentices’ skills are a credit to the lecturers who teach them so well, the employers who take them under their wing, and most importantly to themselves for showing such determination to become the best they can be at their chosen trade.”

The prizes were presented by Alan Brown, MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun, along with SNIPEF Past President and Copper Judge Gordon Matheson.

A total of 31 apprentices from colleges and training centres across Scotland gathered at West College Scotland’s Paisley campus to showcase their skills and knowledge in the competition. The competitors had four hours to complete either a copper pipework exercise or a sheet lead exercise.

As the Scotland regional heat for SkillPLUMB, the highest scoring competitors in the copper competition may go on to represent Scotland in the UK final at WorldSkillsUK LIVE at the NEC Birmingham in November. Only the top eight competitors from the six UK Heats are invited to the final.

SkillPLUMB is an annual skills competition designed to promote standards and skills across the plumbing industry, developing competence into excellence. SkillPLUMB can bring invaluable benefits to students, colleges and employers. Competitors can gain recognition for exceptional skills, injecting dynamism and excitement into training. Employers can enhance their business reputation and improve the skills of their workforce.

Catch all the action from the day in the event video here.

Photo: (L-R) Alan Brown MP, Daniel McNeill, Iain Winnard, Shaun McTavish, Kyle McGeoghie, Samuel Henderson, Connor Cruden and SNIPEF CEO Fiona Hodgson


7 June 2019

SNIPEF partners with CHAS

The Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation (SNIPEF) and the Contractors Health and Safety Assessment Scheme (CHAS) are pleased to announce their new partnership to raise health and safety standards in the UK and make the world of work safer.

The partnership will also help to improve the acceptance and use of the common assessment standard in construction related procurement and aims to reduce the cost duplication and administration involved in the procurement process across the UK. 

From June, SNIPEF members will be able to take advantage of a wide range of discounts and benefits by registering with CHAS.

SNIPEF members should contact the Membership team on 0131 556 0600 or membership@snipef.org for more information.


4 June 2019

SNIPEF welcomes 97th President

SNIPEF, the Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation is pleased to announce that their new President for 2019/20 is Mr Neil Hadden of Elgin.

Elected at the organisations’ Annual General Meeting on 24 May 2019, Neil is the 97th President of SNIPEF. A long-serving plumber, he joined SNIPEF in 1985 and has represented the Banff & Moray Local Association on the SNIPEF Council since 2010.   His firm, Neil Hadden Plumbing & Heating, is based in Elgin.

Upon taking on the role of President, Neil urged members to get more involved with their local association and the wider industry.

“I am honoured to take on the role of SNIPEF President for the next year. Like our members, I have experienced first-hand the challenges facing plumbing and heating businesses and look forward to working with SNIPEF staff and Council members on new initiatives to engage members and provide them with quality representation and services to help their businesses grow.

“I believe we need to continue to find better ways of engaging with our membership base and I strongly encourage our members to become more involved with their local association and decision making in the industry. Our organisation and the industry will only get stronger if we have actively engaged and involved members.” 

Along with Neil’s appointment, the following Office Bearers were elected:

Vice President: Robin Hall

Junior Vice President: Jim Butter               

Immediate Past President: Gordon Matheson

14 September 2018

Trade associations win historic skills bid

Three trade bodies have joined forces to secure an historic agreement from the four UK governments to manage and develop apprenticeships, qualifications and National Occupational Standards for the building services engineering sector.

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA); SELECT and SNIPEF have created a joint body called BSE Skills Ltd, which has now been appointed to oversee vocational training in electrical, plumbing and HVAC.

This sets an historic precedent as it is the first time that trade bodies have received a government commission to carry out this work.

The government sponsored sector skills council SummitSkills was the managing body until it ceased trading in 2017 due to insufficient funding. Now, following a four-nation tender process, the central and devolved governments have turned to the three organisations in order to ensure a secure future for vocational training in these crucial specialist sectors.

As member bodies, the trade associations were able to demonstrate close links with employers as well as UK-wide capacity as part of the bidding process. They are now poised to work with their respective memberships – comprising more than 43,000 businesses representing around 342,000 operatives – to manage the delivery of a training framework for the whole sector.

“This sets a wonderful precedent for the future of vocational training across the UK,” said BESA chief executive David Frise. “We are very grateful to the UK governments for having the foresight to recognise the value industry bodies can bring to the management and delivery of vocational training in vital technical sectors.

“It is also extremely heartening to see three complementary bodies working closely together in partnership to achieve a result that should go a long way to addressing the skills shortages being experienced by building engineering employers. Congratulations to my own staff at BESA and to their counterparts at SNIPEF and SELECT for putting together such an excellent joint bid.”

Fiona Harper, head of employment affairs at SELECT, said it was vital that the sector retained control over the development of its own National Occupational Standards.

“They are the starting point for all the work we do in developing the training undertaken by our workforce,” she added. “Securing the agreement was testament to the hard work put in by all of the trade bodies involved. It will be exciting to see how we can develop this work and shape the training needs of the sector as new technologies and working practices develop,” she added.

Fiona Hodgson, chief executive officer of SNIPEF, welcomed the agreement. She said the successful bid demonstrated the strength of trade associations “working together to ensure that the sector and its employers continue to have the occupational standards, qualifications and apprenticeship frameworks they need to maintain and develop a skilled workforce for the future”.

BSE Skills will now set about consulting with its combined memberships as well as relevant government departments and training providers to update National Occupational Standards for the sector right across the UK.

It has also undertaken to align and co-ordinate all end dates for UK qualifications and modern apprenticeship frameworks in line with the rapidly changing landscape for apprentice recruitment and funding.

The industry bodies have also identified a need to establish mutual recognition and transportability of all BSE qualifications across the UK and to recognise the specific needs of each industry and in all regions.


20 June 2018

SNIPEF skillPLUMB  2018 Winners announced


Apprentices from Tullos Training in Aberdeen who both work for Aberdeenshire firm Derek Scott Plumbing and Heating took home the top awards at the 44th Annual SNIPEF SkillPLUMB competition.

The event was hosted by West College Scotland at their Paisley Campus on Friday 15 June.  

The first prize in the copper competition was won by James McCall Smith of Tullos Training, employed by Derek Scott Plumbing and Heating. Second prize went to Kyle McGeoghie of Perth College, who works for William Combe & Son Ltd and third prize went to Alexander Clouston of Inverness College, who works for Pipedream Plumbing Ltd.

The first prize in the lead competition was won by Samuel Henderson of Tullos Training, employed by Derek Scott Plumbing and Heating. Second prize went to John Taylor who attends Glasgow Clyde College and who works for Evolve Plumbing Services Ltd and third prize went to Cameron Stewart of Moray College who works for DD Plumbing Services.

The prizes were presented by Jamie Hepburn, MSP, Minister for Employability and Training and SNIPEF Past President Gerry Woods.

In his Guest Address Mr Hepburn said:  “…[Scotland’s young people] are offered a fruitful and rewarding experience through apprenticeships and I need you to go out and tell others what a great opportunity an apprenticeship can be.”

Jamie Hepburn MSP, James McCall-Smith First Place (Copper) and Gerry Woods

:Jamie Hepburn MSP, Samuel Henderson First Place (Lead) and Gerry Woods



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