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April 27, 2011

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Chemicals sector agrees training and competence framework

In part recognition of the need to maintain high standards of health and safety in the chemical industry, employer representatives and unions have thrashed out a European-wide training agreement to ensure competence of workers in the sector.

The new Framework Agreement on Education, Training and Lifelong Learning – the first of its type for the chemical industry – has been agreed by the European Chemical Employers’ Group (ECEG) and the European Mine, Chemical and Energy Workers’ Federation (EMCEF).

According to the Unite union, the agreement covers 27 EU countries and puts in place a new ‘gold standard’ for training of employees in the chemical and process industries, based on the UK model.

The agreement will see the member states adopt the Cogent Gold Standard, a competency framework for job roles in the process industries. Cogent is the UK’s skills body for the chemicals, pharmaceuticals, nuclear, oil and gas, petroleum and polymer industries.

The Gold Standard framework should give employers the confidence that employees’ skills are being developed to an industry standard, leading to improved productivity and performance. Each Gold Standard job role describes and maps the competencies required.

The framework covers a wide range of roles – from level 2 to professional status – across four areas of competence: Technical competence; Compliance; Business improvement; and Functional and behavioural.

Member states will initially use the Gold Standard competency framework for process operators and first-line supervisor job roles in the chemical sector, moving on to other roles further down the line.

Unite assistant general secretary, Tony Burke, who represents both the union and the TUC on the board of Cogent, said: “The agreement is the first of its type in the chemical industry, and only the second across all EU sectors relating to training, education and lifelong learning.

“The future needs for training and skilled workers in times of demographic changes and an ageing workforce was one of the drivers in the negotiation of this agreement. Anticipating demographic risks and preparing to tackle this challenge is a key issue for the future of a sustainable European chemical industry.”

Reinhard Reibsch, secretary general of EMCEF, said: “This agreement is a further sign of the importance that a well-qualified workforce plays for science-based production and the chemical industry as a whole.”

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