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Industry needs to fill roles to be net zero fit

More young people are being encouraged to take up a career in the heating sector following a new report which estimates 400,000 energy related jobs will need to be filled to create a workforce fit to achieve net zero by 2050.

David Knipe, OFTEC training manager.

According to the National Grid findings, 260,000 of the roles will be new, including skilled technicians, engineers and other specialists, while 140,000 will replace those who have left the sector.

At the start of National Apprenticeship Week (February 3-9), OFTEC says plentiful career opportunities and the chance to play a part in the UK’s drive to reduce emissions, makes 2020 an exciting time to join the heating industry.

OFTEC training manager, David Knipe, commented: “Achieving net zero means not only attracting new talent into the industry but also harnessing the invaluable knowledge, skills and experience of existing workers.

“The energy sector is undergoing huge change which also brings new and inspiring job opportunities. With a low carbon alternative to replace heating oil in development, there is a strong future ahead for liquid fuels and all those involved in its production and supply, alongside the skilled technicians who will continue to install and maintain the boilers it runs in.”

OFTEC says that with an increased drive to be part of the net zero solution, especially among the younger generation, a career in the heating sector could also be very rewarding.

Research by YouGov shows that over three quarters of UK adults (78 per cent) think it’s important to play a role in the UK’s journey to net zero, while 57 per cent are interested in working for an organisation that actively contributes to this goal.

For young adults (aged 18-24 years), tackling climate change was the second most popular purpose they wanted for their job.

Mr Knipe continued: “With widescale advancements happening across the heating industry, joining the sector today offers an opportunity to help influence and drive action on climate change.

“The role of technicians will likely evolve as consumers seek advice on the most appropriate clean energy solution for their home and rely on a skilled person to expertly install and maintain the system they choose.

“The most sought-after technicians will therefore be competent across a range of technologies including liquid fuel systems, heat pumps, solar and biomass which are all supported by OFTEC’s registration scheme.

“For many homes currently heated by oil, the cheapest, most cost-effective solution will be low carbon liquid fuels and the industry aims to roll out a 100 per cent liquid biofuel to homes by 2035. This provides renewed career opportunities for existing liquid fuel technicians and inspiring possibilities for those new to the sector.”

The National Grid report ‘Building the net zero energy workforce’ does, however, highlight a number of challenges to attracting and retaining the skills the future heating industry requires.

These include loss of talent due to a ‘retirement crunch’ with a fifth of the current workforce due to retire by 2030. There is also fierce competition for skills from other sectors including finance and tech, too few young people choosing to study Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths (STEM) related subjects, and a lack of women working in the sector.

Mr Knipe concluded: “All these issues make it even more crucial that people of all ages are encouraged to understand the value of a role in the heating sector and the security and job satisfaction this can provide, both now and in the future.

“Apprenticeships continue to play an important role in attracting much needed talent but we need to do more to encourage greater diversity of age, gender and background. This will help secure the brightest minds and expert skills the heating sector needs to achieve net zero by 2050.”

10 February 2020

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