Press | Published on 1st May 2017

How can we solve the heating industry skills shortage?

Whilst the industry may evolve and develop as needs change, the fundamental need for a home to have heat and hot water will remain the same. This may very well be the reason you joined the profession- ‘job for life there’ came the advice when you were pondering over your future choices, and it seems you were wise to listen.

In at number 7 on the list of ‘Top 10 Industries that will never go away’ is ‘Professional Services’ under which the Heating and Plumbing industry fall. Simply because we support a basic household need- heat and hot water.

The Federation of Master Builder’s State of Trade Survey for Q4 2016 shows that:

‘The growth in overall workloads slowed for the second consecutive quarter, but remained positive for the fifteenth consecutive quarter. ‘

So despite 2016 being forever known as BREXIT 2016, the SME construction (in which plumbing and heating fall) sector continued to show resilience in the final months of the year.

Reassuring news for us all I am sure. Now comes the crunch….

The FMB’s report also found that 41% of construction SMEs are struggling to recruit plumbers. That’s a staggering number, and with the average age of RGE’s resting at 44, one that we can’t ignore.

The UK’s heating industry is globally respected, but the only way for us to be able to continue to compete internationally, increase productivity and develop new technologies that work, is to maintain our workforce. One way we can increase the skills within our industry is to invest in apprenticeships. But simply offering apprenticeships is not enough we need to attract young people to fill these roles and that is a more difficult proposition.

We need to change the ‘status’ of the qualification compared to a degree  – apprenticeships must not be seen as the ‘poor relation’ to university, they offer an effective way to ‘learn and earn’ at the same time.

The Governments new Apprentice Levy aims to increase the quality and quantity of apprenticeships in England, reaching three million starts in 2020. In April this year, the way the Government funds apprenticeships in England changed.

Some employers are now required to contribute to a new apprenticeship levy from April 2017 and there were also changes to the funding for apprenticeship training for all employers.

The apprenticeship levy requires all employers in the UK, with a pay bill over £3 million each year, to make an investment into apprenticeships at the rate of 0.5 per cent of the annual pay bill. However, there will be a levy allowance of £15,000 that is offset against the levy so it would only be payable if the business pays more than £3 million per annum. Those Employers can then benefit from this investment by training apprentices.

The proposed funding system came into effect on May 1, 2017. The initiative is designed to be supportive of employers who want to deliver training to apprentices. It will enable employers to directly design and deliver the content of the 'off the job' training making sure it includes everything they think it should. It is hoped that employers who become providers can also help improve the quality of apprenticeships by widening the market and increasing the options for delivering high-quality training that will raise professional standards in the industry.

The impact these proposed changes will have is yet to be seen but HHIC hope that young people will continue to enter the industry via an apprenticeship. As an industry we are facing severe skills shortages and apprenticeships offer a way for businesses to up skill their workforce and bridge the gap.

The HHIC will be working across the industry to ensure that this message gets to where it is needed. There are also

Did you start off as an apprentice? Or perhaps you have taken one on. If you have a story to tell about joining the industry via an apprenticeship we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch laurah@eua.org.uk