New talent needed to plug skills gap in heating sector, says OFTEC

New talent needed to plug skills gap in heating sector, says OFTEC

With news that the UK’s economic recovery is in jeopardy due to a chronic skills shortage which is particularly apparent in the trade sector, OFTEC has begun a drive to recruit more young people to begin a career in the heating industry.

According to the Confederation of Business Industry (CBI), the skills shortage is becoming more acute as the country’s economy begins to pick up and a recent report by KPMG and the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) suggests that 20% more construction workers and other tradesmen will be required over the next four years if UK infrastructure targets are to be met.

With this growth in demand, there are plenty of roles to be filled but fewer people are taking on vocational courses or apprenticeships in skilled work to bridge the growing gap. Latest government statistics show that in the academic year 2013/14, 440,000 apprenticeships were started in England – that’s 70,000 fewer than the previous year.

OFTEC Registrations Director, Adrian Lightwood, comments: “Skilled tradespeople are of vital importance to the UK economy and without their valuable work, productivity will falter. Too many young people are put off vocational routes which are still viewed as ‘second class’ but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Equipping school leavers with professional skills and qualifications provides them with a key to a secure a rewarding future. The Government has made some good inroads to encourage businesses to invest in trainees and apprenticeships but industry, education and employers need to work together to encourage many more youngsters to take this route.”

Since 2002, OFTEC has run a competent persons scheme that encompasses the training, assessment and registration of technicians working in the oil heating industry which has become a quality benchmark for installers, technicians and consumers alike. OFTEC’s registration services have since expanded to include options such as electrical Part P, Green Deal and, most recently, solar thermal and heat pumps to widen its support to technicians who want to offer renewable heating.

Adrian Lightwood continues: “With the dramatic drop in oil prices over recent months and expert opinion suggesting these low prices are set to continue, the future of the oil heating industry looks strong.

“There are job opportunities out there and through the professional support and training OFTEC offers, we can help registered technicians to maximise their business and capitalise on every aspect of the market as the off-gas home energy sector gradually becomes more diverse.”

One of the key benefits of OFTEC registration is that technicians can self-certify their work to avoid the time and expense of involving local Council building inspectors. Through OFTEC’s regular technical updates, installers can also ensure they are up to speed with vital new legislation such as the Energy Related Products Directive (ErPD) which comes into effect in September. The new regulations will govern the manufacturing, testing, installation and labelling of heating systems and set out increased responsibilities for manufacturers and installers alike.

Adrian Lightwood concludes: “With consumers becoming more savvy about the risks of shoddy work, contractors requiring proof of professional standards and legislation becoming increasingly demanding, it’s more important than ever for technicians to be able to show they have the necessary skills and qualifications which OFTEC registration provides.

“By encouraging a new generation of technicians equipped with the right skills and a pride in carrying out their best work, we can help to ensure the current skills gap is plugged and the industry moves from strength to strength.”

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