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17 November 2017 by Catherine Nelms, Content Executive

The FIA is evolving.  

The whole world moves forward and change propels us.  100 years ago, you wouldn’t be reading this blog on your phone or your laptop – it might just be a newspaper column or even more likely – I’d just tell you my thoughts to your face. 100 years ago, women weren’t allowed to vote, you’d probably die younger by our standards today, and not everyone had the privilege of education (seems bleak - but keep reading).

The change in society over the past 100 years has been phenomenal. The year is 2017, rapidly pushing us forward into the future of 2018 - and change is on the wind once again.

I mean, if you think carefully, even just over the past 30 years, there has been vast amounts of change in the world.  Some of these changes have been so iconic, so important, and so vital to our society that we couldn’t imagine life any other way – like the invention of the internet, and the fact that we can now get 100’s of TV channels when there used to be just four.

But it isn’t just technology that changes – so do people. Think about yourself last year, five years ago, even 10 years ago… are you still 100% exactly the same?

How is the FIA changing?


How is the FIA changing?

Four qualifications revealed...


If all you ever did was stand completely still and never spoke to anyone for your whole life, your body would still age and change.  The fact is – change is inevitable and it can be a huge force for good.

It makes no sense to stand completely still and watch the world go by.  We have to embrace every aspect of the world and the opportunities it gives us.  And when the winds of change blow, we have to let go and breathe in that fantastic rush of air and fly along with those changes.

The fact is, the fire industry itself is changing.  The industry itself is changing because of the needs of society, the changes in technology, and the attitudes and values of everyone involved.  

The rise in ‘Health and Safety’ being a subject – a whole sector in and of itself, in fact – has lead to the UK leading the way in putting a huge emphasis on being accountable for others.  And whilst other countries around the world may not hold this as a value, the vast majority do.  Society is driven by legislative change, and by the need for high standards.

People change.  Attitudes change.  And so do industries and the way they operate.

The fire industry is changing – and perhaps that really is a good thing.  Companies are setting their standards even higher than before; they want to offer the highest possible level of customer service; gain a competitive advantage over others in the marketplace; build a brand that is known for being reliable. 

customer satisfaction drives everything

As a result, the change those companies asked the FIA for, was qualifications.  ‘We need qualifications for fire detection and alarm engineers,’ they said.  ‘We want a robust and formalised education system for our technicians.  We want to offer the highest skilled technicians in the marketplace.’

‘Let’s see what we can do,’ we said, scratching our heads with a brew in one hand and a pen in the other.

So yes, the FIA is changing.  We’ve now successfully added four new qualifications to our already well-known and much trusted training portfolio.

‘We want these qualifications to be suitable for beginners joining the industry, and for people with a bit of experience who want to have proof of their competence,’ said the voices of the fire industry.

And that is exactly what we’ve done.  

Our new qualifications are for everyone, are offered nationwide, through the same experienced and well-trusted trainers that we’ve had for years.  You can get qualified to be an Advanced Designer, an Advanced Installer, Advanced Maintainer, or Advanced Commissioner in fire detection and alarm systems.

NEW FIA Fire detection & alarm qualifications


NEW FIA Fire detection & alarm qualifications

Your letters and questions explained in this short video


That does mean that yes, we have had to do some shaking up of our own.  Some of our old courses will be slowly filtering out (like the fade out into the sunset at the end of a good movie – smell ya later), and the new qualification courses will overtake their place in January 2018.  

But don’t panic – if you’ve done our old Unit 1, 2&3, Unit 4, or Unit 5, or Unit 6 – they are still valid (watch the video above to find out the hows and whys).

Our training has just… evolved.  We moved forward, changed, developed something that was more suitable for the environment facing 2018 where standards are extremely high.  The landscape, as they say, has shifted – and so businesses need to shift with it.  The environment we are in today is different to 10 years ago when the FIA as we know it today was formed from a merger of our two ancestor trade associations.  

2017 is changing to 2018


Q & A:

What’s the difference between doing training and doing this qualification?

You’ve pretty much just said it.  Training is well, just training.  You get the knowledge you need and can effectively carry out what you’ve learnt. 

Ian Gurling, the FIA Awarding Organisation Manager, commented:

“The difference between training and the qualifications can be boiled down to quality assurance. The Qualifications have the gravitas offered through external quality assurance in the processes of development, ensuring that qualifications are developed to serve the needs of the industry. 

I usually describe training with the analogy that you can train a dog to sit, they don’t know why they are sitting, just that they have to, the qualifications provide learning, you understand the knowledge being imparted, how to use that knowledge and why.”

A qualification carries prestige with it.  It’s like a badge to prove your achievements.  And in addition it is fully backed by an Ofqual recognised Awarding Body (Ofqual is the government authority for exams and qualifications in England… we’re also recognised in Wales and Northern Ireland through their respective government education authorities).


Are the old FIA training courses really ending?

Yes.  We’re retiring the old fire detection and alarm courses in favour of the qualifications.  From January 2018, only the qualifications will be offered and the old fire detection and alarm units will be enjoying their retirement.

But seriously – no worries.  We consulted with industry bodies, employers, and learners to figure out what they wanted on the new courses and used all of that research to develop something new and relevant to 2017 and beyond.  

So what you’re learning isn’t ‘gone’, just different!  We’ve supersized everything, and beefed it up with lots of juicy extras to get everything you could possibly want to know into one qualification. 


I took the old Unit 1, and then did Units 2 & 3, but I really wanted to do a Unit 4 or Unit 6 to finish off!  Argh!  Do I have to start from the beginning again?

We recognise that there are going to be some small niggles during the transition time between retiring the old courses and starting the new qualification courses, and some people might just want to do one final unit to finish off what they started.  That’s fine, we get that you want to just finish off rather than start fresh.

Here it is important to think carefully about your options.  The old units were written to the old BS 5839-1 2013 standards, and they won’t be updated because the freshly created qualification courses are to the new 2017 standards.  Do you really want to train to the old standards?  

The new qualifications also have considerably more information in them.  So even if you did study any of our old courses, you will be missing out on the new knowledge that can be gained from the qualification pathway.  We’ve set the bar high because that’s what the industry wants and needs – a higher level of knowledge and understanding.  

The new qualifications are a whole different ball game – scoring high in the premier league of fire detection and alarm and certainly not some little league team… (okay enough with the football analogy!).  


I’ve read that the qualifications are equivalent to an A-Level elsewhere on your website.  Does that mean that they are only useful to young people and apprentices?

Nope.  The qualifications are for every level – whether you’ve been in the industry for 5 minutes, 5 years, or 50 years.  You may have plenty of CPD under your belt or have been designing or installing fire alarm systems for more years than you can count… or alternatively you might just only have been in your role for a few months.

The reason we say that the qualifications are equivalent to an A-Level is because they are Level 3 on the Regulation Qualifications Framework (RQF).  It just means that this is the level of knowledge that can be achieved, since everyone can understand what an A-Level is, rather than saying Level 3 qualification (which is what you’ll get).  

Referring to our qualifications being ‘A-Level equivalent’ is to do with the high standard of study – rather than relate to the stage of your career that you personally are at.

What can I expect when studying the qualification pathway?

As you can imagine, the subject of fire detection and alarm systems is a technical one.  So naturally, the things you will be studying will be highly technical in nature.  And you will be studying some of it to an A-Level standard.  This is what sets them apart from any other training available – because without that high level of knowledge involved, they wouldn’t be as valuable to you once you’d left the classroom.

However, we will expect that you will have good reading and writing skills, and be prepared to study a high level of technical information in order to prepare for the examinations.


What are the exams like?

Unlike our other courses, the qualification examinations are a formal process.  You will not be allowed to refer to any other reference material other than your own test, and it will be fully invigilated to prevent any cheating.  So you really do need to know your stuff!  Trust us when we say you'll be grateful for memorising it all once you're out installing or commissioning something at work.

But don’t panic; the qualifications are achievable, and we will help you get there.  If you decide to join us, you’ll get all the support you need: comprehensive face-to-face classes, the benefit of a trainer with years of experience, and a free resit in the unlikely event that you don’t pass the first time.


>>Learn more.  Download our prospectus>>