In 2016 Flannery Plant Hire helped to form the ‘trailblazer group’, an employer-led working group tasked with developing a fit-for-purpose apprenticeship standard for the construction plant industry. Consisting of employers representing construction equipment owners and hirers from a variety of sectors, as well as clients (including HS2 and Highways England) and training providers, Patrick Flannery has chaired the group since the project’s infancy.

The approval of the CPO Apprenticeship is a great achievement for the construction plant industry. it provides a sustainable way forward to excite and attract new talent through this trailblazer and into the industry.

Patrick Flannery said, “After many years of developing this apprenticeship, we’re pleased to have passed the final hurdle. As a team, we are looking forward to engaging with potential providers and ensuring the very best training for our future apprentices. I must mention (and thank) the wider working group, their dedication to seeing this apprenticeship through to fruition is something to be admired and I am very grateful for their support. More than ever, we need to attract new talent and we hope industry will support our efforts and take up this important apprenticeship.”

In late 2018, approval was finally given by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) to develop this trailblazer. As the industry calculated the need to recruit approximately 31,600 new employees annually (simply to keep up with existing levels of demand) work began in earnest to develop the standards and assessment plan.

The group developed the standard – the skills, knowledge and behaviors (KSB) required for the apprenticeship, with learning taking place on four machines over a fifteen-month period. The machine types include an excavator, dumper or dump truck, forklift and ride-on roller, acting as the stepping-stone into the sector and occupation. The content includes learning on operator-level servicing and basic maintenance techniques as well as the marshalling of plant, providing apprentices with an overall understanding of plant operations and supporting activities. Although there is a requirement to have at least 20% of the learning of the job, the majority of learning will be undertaken within the workplace.

As Sophie Francis, Training Manager from Flannery Plant Hire explained: “Once the standard received approval from the IfATE in mid-2019 our final task was developing the end point assessment plan – the methodology and requirements to effectively measure the KSBs. Whilst an operator’s knowledge and skills will be assessed based on a pass or fail marking criteria, apprentices who demonstrate exceptional behaviours have the opportunity to be awarded a distinction grade. This would be awarded to those who demonstrate positive customer relationships, support and mentor others, act as ambassadors for the sector, or take the lead on safety and wellbeing initiatives etc.”

Paul Skitt, Flannery Plant Hire Skills & Development Director continues, “We felt it was important that the assessment process included a number of practical activities on each machine type, to ensure that the operator has the capability and aptitude to safely carry out their work tasks. To give apprentices a chance to really shine the assessment process further comprises a theory test, a professional discussion and a work record book that is completed in the workplace. We are sure that the end point assessment provides real opportunity for apprentices to demonstrate their learning and value to the industry, whether they are most comfortable under test conditions or talking through the skills they have acquired.”

The group submitted the assessment plan by the IfATE’s February 2020 deadline and in early April 2020, final approval was given meaning that the core of the development work has now been completed and the working group can prepare the apprenticeship for delivery to industry.

As to the funding band, the working group has accepted a funding value of £14K – funding band 17. This funding value is over three times more than the current funding available for the existing apprenticeship standard and will therefore make the delivery model more sustainable whilst maintaining quality.

Paul Skitt commented, “The approved funding value is a positive result for the industry. The previous Apprenticeship value was a significant barrier for providers to deliver the required training for the apprenticeship. The revised value offers the industry a real chance to address the skills and employment challenges we face”.

Peter Brown, Technical Manager of the CPA commented, “It’s been an arduous journey since we started the process several years ago but gratifying to have finally completed the development with Patrick and the working group, who’ve continually supported the development through to the end. I’d also like to acknowledge the excellent help given by our IfATE appointed Relationship Manager, Neil Jones in helping us navigate our way through the approval processes. The work of the CPA is now to promote and support the delivery of this apprenticeship to employers and industry”.

Paul Whitehead, Highways England Category Manager for Construction Plant added “Highway England has supported the ‘trailblazer group’ on its journey from the beginning and this milestone is important for the industry as a whole. Most of the group’s membership is drawn from Highways England’s Construction Plant Community where the need for more Construction Plant operators to deliver on future infrastructure schemes is widely acknowledged. This training will enable new and highly-skilled operatives to enter the wider sector and help Highways England to keep the country connected.”

The CPA and Flannery Plant Hire are now looking to invite training providers and colleges to deliver the standard. While approval would normally involve a launch event such plans are currently on hold. Anyone interested can register their interest by in attending a future event by emailing The standard should soon be on the IfATE’s website so please watch this space for more information.