All change

Jerry Whiteley reviews the Plumbing and Domestic Heating Technician (P&DHT) Level 3 Standard, including the changes to content and assessment criteria

The P&DHT Standard has been subjected to a lot of revision over the past 12 months or so and I have had the privilege of being part of the employer group working with the APHC, which has led the consultations.

IfATE gave direction for what changes can and cannot be made through its strict criteria and now we have an outline of the proposal. One thing that stands out is why a review of the Standard was instructed without data to justify change, given so few cohorts had even completed the original version.

The review has now finally put to bed the request for a level 2 qualification and proceeds as a level 3 apprenticeship over a four-year period. The CIPHE fully supports raising standards to a minimum level 3, which is suitable for tomorrow’s plumbing and heating engineers, and subsequent professional registration with the Engineering Council.


The curriculum is changing slightly, including subjects around systems. For example:

• Boosted water systems

• Health and safety

• Processes

• Science

• Combustion science

• Renewables awareness

• Size, select, plan, install, test, commission, fault find, repair, service and maintain plumbing and heating within: hot water, cold water, central heating, above ground drainage and rainwater pipework

Exams/assessment content will be re-worked by the awarding organisations later this year before its re-launch.

Assessment changes

Core 1 – Assessment methods
A 60-question multi-choice paper/110 minutes time allowance.

Core 2 – Assessment methods
The assessment consists of two components:

1. A practical planning project, which might be from the following list:

• Design criteria

• Completed fabric heat loss

• Heating pipework sizing

• Hot and cold-water pipework sizing

• Final layout plans

• Materials list

• Merchant order

• A work programme

In addition, there is a risk assessment and method statement (from a given scenario).

2. A practical competence test.
Pass or fail grades.

End-point assessment

Option 1 – Domestic Gas Systems and Hot Water Heating Appliances
The gas assessment will now be part of the EPA. It will include a professional interview supported by a portfolio. It requires a Nationally Accredited Certification Scheme for Gas Fitting Operatives Assessment Categories CCN1 and CENWAT. Pass or fail grades.

Option 2 – Domestic Air Source Heat Pumps and Solar Thermal Systems
The candidate is assessedon-site on one source and simulated on the other at their training provider’s facility. Both must be achieved; the option is which one you do at work.

Again, a professional discussion is supported with a portfolio, and practical and theory papers are done in line with MCS accreditation and Building Regulations Competent Person Schemes. Pass or fail grades.

Oil and solid fuel are removed and become an option outside of the standard. Performance in the EPA will determine the overall standard and grade of fail, pass, merit or distinction.

Option 3 – Non-Domestic Plumbing Systems (a new pathway – not gas or heating)

This new route ought to bring in many more candidates from industry and better support for the breadth of work achieved by apprentices.

At present, the content in the standard is solely domestic. The non-domestic plumbing route will allow those to gain evidence from larger sites/commercial work. Or, to put it another way, 28mm copper and above, and larger sanitary systems.

This unit will be assessed by a professional interview supported by a portfolio, a multi-choice test paper and practical assessment. The practical task might be a pipe frame built using a range of pipe sizes and materials/ jointing techniques, followed by a practical application test. Pass or fail grades.

IQA notes

Independent assessors will:

  • Have a minimum of a Level 3 NVQ in Plumbing and Domestic Heating (or equivalent)
  • Have a minimum of five years post-qualification industrial experience
  • Show evidence of continuing professional development
  • Hold or be working towards an independent assessor qualification, for example TAQA (Training and Quality Assessment)

Independent assessors for Option 1: Domestic Gas Systems and Hot Water Heating Appliances pathway of the EPA will meet current ACS requirements.

Independent assessors for Option 2: Domestic Air Source Heat Pumps and Solar Thermal Systems pathway of the EPA will also have Solar Thermal Hot Water Systems and Heat Pump Systems or Heat Pump Technology Air Source Systems Certification (where not included in the original qualifications mentioned above).

Independent assessors for Option 3: Non-Domestic Plumbing Systems pathway of the EPA will, in addition, have Legionella Risk Assessment and Water Systems Disinfection for Mechanical Services Certification.

The next phase is to allow time to amend documentation and online assessments through the awarding bodies, and give training providers/ EPAOs chance to implement their changes and provide staff training. There is also a need to review the funding due to these changes.

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