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Industry bodies unite to upskill workforce

An industry-wide initiative involving the Electrotechnical Certification Scheme (ECS) is underway in order to upskill the UK’s existing workforce and help achieve the Government’s and respective devolved nations' net zero targets.

The ECS initiative is being undertaken both through the Joint Industry Board (JIB) and Scottish Joint Industry Board (SJIB) for the Electrotechnical Industry, Joint Industry Board for Plumbing, Mechanical and Engineering Services (JIB-PMES), Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) and the Scottish Northern Ireland Joint Industry Board (SNIJIB.

Over the next few years there is an expected surge in demand for low carbon transport, energy efficiency, storage and for more sustainable methods of heating. For example, 600,000 heat pumps will be required every year by 2028 (Government’s Green Plan, announced November 2020). The five CSCS Partner Schemes above, representing more than 300,000 operatives across the UK heating and ventilation, mechanical and electrotechnical sectors, are working together to recognise and endorse the qualifications, skills and experience of their workforce in this crucial area.

Discussions have taken place between the five schemes to agree a future roadmap for these skills which may cross occupations to allow recognition and provide a pragmatic solution to this sector within the established industry structures. Although there are some occupations which clearly fit within one scheme, heat pump installation and maintenance are examples of occupations which cross boundaries between electrical, mechanical, and heating and ventilation.

The partner schemes have agreed that:

Qualifications and endorsements for heat pumps may be recognised under each scheme – it will be dependent on the training route into the industry/ apprenticeship/occupation for the individual and likely the skilled card already held as to their ‘base’ qualifications as to which will be most appropriate

Heat pump upskilling is an extra, necessary endorsement for the schemes (e.g., in addition to VQ plumbing, heating and ventilation or electrical installation) and will be displayed on each card where individuals have obtained the relevant qualifications/standard for each scheme to readily identify these skills

The Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heat Pump Engineering apprenticeship standard is also recognised for air-to-air heat pump applications as a relevant entry route for this occupation

This understanding recognises the need for industry recognised qualifications for qualified and competent personnel, preventing a race to the bottom in regard to training and standards in an increasingly important part of our shared sector.

Andy Reakes, JIB & ECS, explained: “Maintaining industry standards in this vital area is key and the five partner schemes are unified in recognising the need to be appropriately qualified, and that personnel have undertaken the necessary additional upskilling and training to the requirements of the Microgeneration Certification Scheme.”

Fiona Harper, SJIB: “It is becoming clearer with each passing day that the rapidly changing world requires properly trained and qualified professionals to support the transition to net zero carbon. This is essential for improved safety and better consumer confidence and this work will ensure the necessary skills are recognised in each of the partner schemes.”

Kevan Holmes, JIB-PMES: “In line with Government policy there is an urgent need to upskill the existing workforce and encourage people down the correct training and career paths for these occupational roles.”

Rachel Davidson, BESA, added: “One of the biggest barriers to adoption of heat pump technology is the lack of suitably qualified installers. It is important installations meet a high technical standard and that engineers fully understand the technology.”

Stephanie Lowe, SNIJIB: “The direction of travel is clearly towards low carbon technologies and we have been working to encourage employers to enhance their workforce capability to play their part in creating a new environment of sustainable energy.”

8 September 2021

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