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Business development: It pays to train to gain

Continued investment in training is time well spent and can even help give businesses a competitive edge, says Pete Mills
IN TODAY'S FIERCELY competitive, economically constrained world, companies will inevitably be tempted to make savings wherever they can. Often, one of the first casualties in difficult trading conditions is in training. However, training makes solid sense for several reasons. Here are just three...

1. Because technology is changing all the time... Over recent years the face of the heating industry has changed dramatically as new technologies have arrived on the scene to join the more mainstream options, like energy efficient cast iron, stainless steel and condensing boilers. Amongst these are renewable technologies that have specific UK variants and features, such as solar thermal panels, gas absorption heat pumps and Combined Heat and Power units (CHP), all of which look set to play a much bigger part in how we heat commercial and industrial spaces in years to come.

Multitude of choices
As a result, consultants, contractors, installers and engineers now have a multitude of choices when it comes to specifying heating and hot water solutions. They also face a growing requirement to gain an in-depth understanding of new technologies and the installation procedures for each in order to get the best efficiencies from any heating system. One of the best ways to keep up with such changes is to invest in regular training, so as more options emerge individuals and businesses can keep ahead of the game by offering a wide enough range of heating solutions.

At the point of choosing a training supplier, businesses are well advised to contact the manufacturers they work closely with on a regular basis. A select few companies offer comprehensive training courses and some even have dedicated training facilities run by fully qualified technical trainers. These facilities enable installers and engineers to learn practical installation skills by working with 'live' products in a safe environment before they progress to carry out installation work in the field. Far from just sitting and taking notes in a classroom, these courses will typically be designed to be hands on, combining practical installation tips with theory to provide a thorough understanding of the technology and specific products in question.

2. Because training can help diversify your business... As the UK continues to weather the storm of the recession, there may be a temptation for businesses and individuals to tighten the purse strings when it comes to investment in training. However, in my experience, some of the most successful companies I have worked with over the years are those that have continued to invest in staff development and training even when the market is slower than usual.

Alongside installation courses, we offer for cast iron, stainless steel and condensing boilers at Buderus, we have certainly noticed an increase over the past couple of years in individuals attending training courses for renewable technologies. As the industrial and commercial heating market becomes increasingly competitive, those businesses choosing to diversify into new areas are more likely to have an advantage over those that don't; simply because they can offer a complete package of compatible heating solutions.

In changing times, and with the UK's ambitious carbon reduction targets in mind, there is a lot to be said for looking at the long term potential of the industrial and commercial heating sector. For one, the energy efficiency of installations in this sector is likely to come under much greater scrutiny in years to come, just as the domestic sector has been a real focus for the Government to date. Therefore, training to install renewable technologies alongside cast iron, stainless and condensing boilers makes perfect sense. Stopping training altogether can be a false economy - especially if it means competitors can sneak ahead.

3. Because training and 'best practice' go hand in hand... Just as training in new areas can help businesses and individuals diversify and expand, regular investment in training can also help set the standards for 'best practice' within an organisation.

Certainly for those operating within the industrial and commercial heating and plumbing industry, legislation and regulations change so frequently that attending training courses can help keep everyone up to date with the latest requirements and customer expectations.

Always something new to learn
Training is vital for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) as no matter how experienced someone may be as a consultant, installer or engineer there is always something new to learn. All it takes is for legislation to change or a new type of heating technology to become available and a knowledge gap is created.

Being able to demonstrate continued learning is also important for winning customer confidence. After all, it is far more reassuring to deal with businesses and individuals that can demonstrate up-to-the-minute knowledge of new technologies and solutions than those that can't.
For consultants, installers and engineers attending manufacturer-led training courses, there is also the added benefit of getting to know the expert technical teams behind the brands they work with. In the longer term, relationships kick-started by attending a training course can evolve into mutually beneficial partnerships.

Training with the experts…

Buderus, Bosch Group recently opened a new £1.5 million training and assessment facility at its headquarters in Worcester. Designed to provide an authentic training experience, the new academy features a 100 sq m open plan training area including a life-sized single storey brick building, equipped with a commercial solar heating system and high level scaffolded walkway. Training rooms featuring a range of products from the Buderus portfolio allow the manufacturer to offer a ‘one stop shop’ for commercial and industrial training. For more information, visit www.buderus.co.uk

The author is commercial technical operations manager for Buderus, Bosch Group.
6 August 2012

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