Funding secured for competency assessments | Pest control

30 May 2022

TechAssure: Virtual assessment of practical skills and knowledge

Training | PPC107 June 2022

BPCA has launched a 3D interactive competency assessment with support and funding from the Ufi VocTech Trust.

BPCA Training and Development Manager Karen Dawes explains TechAssure and the gaps it helps fill for newly qualified technicians.

VIRTUAL assessment of practical pest control skills and knowledge

What defines a pest professional?

It’s an often-asked question and one to which the answer given is usually ‘a qualification’. And anyone qualified to the recognised Level 2 Award in Pest Management is undoubtedly taking the proper steps. However, it is more complex than that.

The European definition of a professional pest controller takes a four-pronged approach. It requires professional pest controllers to demonstrate:

  • They have undertaken relevant training
  • They are qualified to a minimum recognised level
  • They are committed to continued professional development
  • They are competent to carry out safe and effective pest management.

And it’s that last bullet point that is the troublesome one.

noun   /ˈkɒmpɪt(ə)ns/
The ability to do something successfully or efficiently.

How do you demonstrate competency? Certainly not through a written assessment. That, at best, tests your knowledge and understanding of pest management. At worst, it simply tests memory.

Imagine a learner driver takes their theory test and is immediately allowed to drive, unsupervised, on UK roads and motorways. Unthinkable, right?

But is that not what’s happening in pest control?

A trainee pest controller passes a written examination and is immediately allowed unsupervised use of dangerous chemicals where people live, work and play.

A written assessment doesn’t test whether a candidate has the skills to carry out pest management.

Testing competency 

Now, I’m not saying that the competency of newly qualified technicians isn’t checked.

I know many BPCA member companies have robust internal training programmes in place. Their trainees are supervised throughout their induction period, with processes in place for line managers to sign off their competence through observation.

For many reasons, line manager sign-off is the ideal solution for ensuring competency. However, it’s not always possible in every business.

Micro-businesses and new entrants to the sector are unlikely to have the resources to do a competency check.

In 2019, BPCA facilitated an Employer Group of BPCA members to develop and publish an English Level 2 Pest Technician apprenticeship through the Institute of Apprenticeships.

The apprenticeship would take a minimum of 12 months to complete, and during that time, trainees would be given both theory and practical training and be assessed regularly by independent assessors.

How do you demonstrate competency? Certainly not through a written assessment. That, at best, tests your knowledge and understanding of pest management. At worst, it simply tests memory.

Karen Dawes, BPCA Training and Development Manager

However, the numbers of learners forecast, and the likely geographical spread of those learners, meant that no commercial training provider or assessment organisation considered it a financially viable prospect – mainly due to the cost of the requirement for regular physical observations of candidates.

And that is where this story starts.

Introducing TechAssure

TechAssure in action BPCA

By their very nature, independent physical observations are costly. Plus, there are challenges in finding the relevant pest issue in the right environment for when an assessment is needed.

In 2021, BPCA successfully secured funding to develop a pilot virtual platform to assess learners’ practical skills in realistic environments. And in March this year, at BPCA’s PestEx exhibition, TechAssure was introduced to the sector.

How it works

Explore two photo-realistic, three-dimensional environments
Find evidence of an infestation and identify the pest(s)
Choose a treatment option from a toolkit of pest control products
Inform the customer of any recommendations to prevent any reocurrence
The assessment is marked automatically

Because the assessment marks itself automatically,  learners will know immediately if they’ve passed or failed their assessment. If a learner fails, feedback is provided to guide any additional training needs.

If they pass, they have demonstrated their competency in dealing with a real-life pest infestation – albeit in a virtual environment.

And this can happen at a time and place to suit the learner and their organisation!

The assessment is designed to support the learners at entry-level and is an add-on opportunity for those who have recently passed their Level 2 Award in Pest Management.

Recruitment tool

TechAssure is an excellent tool for employers recruiting technicians. You’ll be able to assess a potential employee’s practical skills during recruitment.

TechAssure could be a valuable part of your hiring process.

Easy to access 

It couldn’t be easier to access TechAssure. All you need is a quiet space, a computer or tablet and an internet connection.

  • Each learner will be sent a URL and given login details to access the portal
  • They’ll enter a practice room where they can familiarise themselves with moving around and using the toolkit to place treatments
  • Learners stay in the practice room as long as they need to feel comfortable with the controls
  • When ready, learners move into the assessment area, where they’ll have a specified amount of time to complete the assessment
  • Once they submit a treatment assessment, they’ll be asked for client recommendations
  • The learner will receive notification that the assessment is complete and get results instantly
  • Once we’ve validated the results, further feedback will be sent to the learner and the organisation.

When learners pass the assessment, they will receive a BPCA Practical Skills in Rodent Control accreditation.

Final thoughts

I couldn’t be more proud of the work that has taken place on this project.

This assessment has been developed by pest professionals for pest professionals. Through the project group of member volunteers, we had access to the highest level of expertise and experience in the sector.

I believe that TechAssure, in its pilot phase, will benefit so many learners by giving them confidence in their ability to carry out safe and effective pest control. It’ll help employers direct training resources where needed.

It will reassure clients that the professionalism of their pest control contractors is demonstrable at all levels.

And this is just the beginning.

This is a pilot project – if successful, we can add more environments, more pest species, and increased levels of complexity if we can find the right partners.

Special thanks to...

Our project group: 
Simon Taylor, Ecolab
Alex Wade, Wade Environmental 
Paul Blackhurst, Rentokil 
Martin Rose-King, Bounty Pest Control.

Our project partners: 
Mike Newbould, The Learning Tank.

Find out more or book

TechAssure is ready for its first candidates! Contact us today to get started.
01332 225 114

Source: PPC107