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01 July 2022

VIDEO: Digital Forum 14 - What's the future for pest qualifications?


In this video, British Pest Control Association's Training and Development Manager, Karen Dawes, discusses considerations for the future of pest control qualifications and invites pest management professionals to take part in a consultation on what a new qualification framework might look like. 

In the presentation and article below, Karen explains the importance of making sure pest control qualifications are fit-for-purpose and what BPCA hopes to achieve by holding a consultation.

Imagine a world where someone who had just passed their theory driving test is then able to immediately drive a car, unsupervised, on any UK road. This is the current situation in pest control where, upon passing a knowledge-based written assessment, pest controllers are legally able to use potentially dangerous chemicals to control pests where people live, work and play.

This was my opening line on a recent funding bid. Such was its impact on an organisation completely without links to pest management, that they immediately saw the value in the bid and ultimately awarded us a significant amount of funds to deliver the project, with help from the Professional Standards Committee.

That project was TechAssure, BPCA’s  3D competency-based assessment for rodent control

Fast forward, and over the last few months I've been attending regional and digital forums to consult on another project overseen by the Professional Standards Committee. This project aims to explore whether the current qualification pathway still meets the needs of a rapidly changing industry. 

This presentation at a recent BPCA digital forum caused quite a stir. Whilst there was a lot of positive feedback, there was a sense that some of what we're trying to achieve might have been misunderstood. I think it’s important that I clear up some of those misconceptions here. 

Why a qualification framework?

This project was borne from feedback given by our members; these are consummate professionals who have all put in the effort and taken the time to become qualified pest controllers and yet find themselves competing in an arena where non-qualified pest controllers are able to operate legally.

These are people who are often undercutting professionals on price, because they don’t have to bear the cost of training staff and ensuring their knowledge is kept up-to-date with CPD.

As such, our members want to put clear water between themselves and unqualified pest controllers but it’s not that simple. 

A number of BPCA non-technical staff, including our Chief Executive Ian Andrew, have achieved the RSPH Level 2 Award in Pest Management qualification. However, they will all testify that even though they are qualified to deliver pest control services, none of them have the competency to actually do it.

A knowledge-based written assessment does not provide that clear water between qualified and non-qualified pest controllers.

More and more of a professional pest controller’s toolkit of products is coming under threat, in large part because of the consequences of incorrect use. Restrictions on the use of other elements of the toolkit are being added or continually looked at; again because, as an industry, we are unable to demonstrate that we have processes in place to ensure competent use. 

These are just a couple of the reasons why the project to look at what a modern, progressive career and qualification pathway for pest control might look like is important.

“If it isn’t broken, why fix it?”

A good question, but is it really not broken? 

Data from BPCA’s individual recognition and CPD Scheme, BPCA Registered, shows that *79% of those working in a technical role have not achieved any technical qualifications higher than a Level 2 Award in Pest Management.

This would suggest that too many people are doing the minimum and very few are progressing on from, what the BPCA and the wider sector recognises as, entry level. Like it or not, a level 2 award is not respected by service users as a professional qualification.

In terms of assessment of competency at this level, you could argue that we already have the RSPH Certificate in Pest Management which assesses practical skills in vertebrate and invertebrate control.

However, BPCA Registered data shows that of the 79% mentioned, only *14% of those technicians have chosen to do the Certificate modules.

Yes, it’s there but it isn’t necessarily seen as the entry route into pest control.

And, as I say in my presentation, most professional sectors have entry at Level 3 and above. If we want pest control to be defined as a professional sector, and reap the benefits that this brings, I would argue that we need a framework that offers progression, demonstrates competency and is an industry requirement.

One of the major issues faced by our sector is recruitment, and having a comprehensive career and qualification framework will not only help retain the staff we have but will also make pest management a credible option for others.

Where are we now? 

The professionalism working group within the Professional Standards Committee has done a lot of work putting this draft framework together.

We are now at the stage of consultation. This consultation will be industry wide and involve all interested parties including awarding bodies.

Following my presentation at the digital forum it was suggested that BPCA was trying to “get rid of RSPH and their qualifications”.

This could not be further from the truth and indeed, an invitation was issued to and accepted by RSPH a few weeks prior to the presentation for them to be involved in this consultation.

Awarding bodies are the experts in setting standards and assessment of those standards, it would be inconceivable for BPCA not to include them in any consultation. BPCA has a long record of working with RSPH and the early invitation to be involved was indicative of that. 

We will, of course, include other awarding bodies in the consultation because the industry needs the benefit of their expertise and the creative, innovative approaches that such expertise brings in order to ensure that any new qualification framework is of the highest standard and as robust as possible. 

Another misconception was that this project is just a money-making exercise for BPCA to try to sell more training. It’s something that we hear often, but let’s be clear; any qualification pathway that is supported by an awarding body, ie on a recognised qualification framework (RQF) can be delivered by any training organisation approved to deliver it.

BPCA has already put a significant amount of resource into this project, and will continue to do so, but we are doing this because our members’ have asked us to do it, and the benefits of a highly qualified, competent workforce will be felt industry-wide. 

And for those who are concerned that the introduction of a new framework will mean that they have to sit additional examinations, I urge you to listen to my presentation and understand that part of this project’s aims is to review whether the current level 2 is set correctly. It may very well be that very little additional assessment is needed to gain the equivalence of a level 3. 

Our consultation on the qualification framework will continue until at least the end of the year. In a matter of weeks we have reached an audience of over 250 and we will work hard to ensure that we reach as many people as possible, recording all feedback, good and bad.  

And importantly, if the industry decides through these consultations, that what we have already is good enough and nothing needs to change, then that is what will happen.

But if the feedback suggests that what we are proposing would be welcomed, we will endeavour to collaborate industry-wide to make it happen. 

*Sample analysis does not include those working in specialisms such as Bird Control or Fumigation Control. 

About the video

The British Pest Control Association (BPCA) hosts these free events so everyone interested in pest management can learn, share and connect.

This video is intended for those working in the pest management sector.

Information correct at time of filming. Views of the speakers are their own and not necessarily shared by BPCA.

On BPCA Registered? Make sure you record your CPD points!

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