Revival in apprenticeships for the heating sector


Peter Behan, Director at Group Horizon, explains how an industry skills shortage and the UK’s net zero target have encouraged a revival in apprenticeships and outlines some of the routes into a career in the built environment.

Young people have undoubtedly borne the brunt of the unemployment crisis over the past few years and the legacy of youth unemployment will be acutely felt in years to come. High quality apprenticeships will be a key factor in boosting future job prospects and individuals should be encouraged to explore their career options by looking closely at the range of benefits an apprenticeship can offer.

It’s also perhaps not surprising that the pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on young people and their employment opportunities with global youth employment dropping by 8.7% last year. On top of this, many young people have experienced serious disruption to their training or education, stymying career progression and fostering feelings of uncertainty over future prospects.

However, while there is still some way to go, there are now signs that the economic recovery is gathering pace and organisations are once again looking towards the future and bringing through the next generation of skilled workers. The introduction of higher apprenticeships has boosted take-up amongst qualified individuals who recognise the ever-expanding range of opportunities to learn vital occupational skills and acquire industry recognised qualifications that will put them firmly on the path towards a fulfilling and rewarding career.

Build the Future

The theme of National Apprenticeship Week in February was ‘Build the Future’ (allied to the fundamental messages featured in the Build Back Better campaign), encouraging all parties to consider the ways in which apprenticeships can help individuals, employers, local communities, and the wider economy.

For employers, taking on an apprentice should be viewed as an investment in the future of the organisation – an ideal opportunity to address skills gaps, upskill the workforce and prepare for the challenges and opportunities that may lie ahead. Investing in a workforce helps to retain talent and apprentices gain the all-important skills and knowledge needed to drive businesses forward, taking on the values of the company and contributing to the development of a confident, dynamic workforce with future-ready skills. Businesses that have previously taken on apprentices recognise the value they can offer and the swift return on investment that can be achieved.

After a tough couple of years, many businesses now have detailed plans in place as part of a nationwide effort to expediate a return to something approaching normality. Apprentices are a driving force in the campaign to build back stronger, with new starter levels rising steadily and a noticeable uptick in interest from businesses and individuals.

Modern legislation and environmental targets have made good building management a priority. As a national training provider with a track record of delivering a specialist range of training and workforce development programmes.

Group Horizon’s Junior Energy Manager apprenticeship programme, for example; has been designed to help organisations meet sustainability commitments by reducing energy consumption and reducing costs, as well as contributing towards the UK’s target of net zero carbon by 2050. Due to the rise of the cost of energy the UK will become one of the most competitive market places for energy management skills over the next five to seven years. With a major shortage of trained energy managers, this apprenticeship will help to address the need for basic in-house energy management skills which can benefit organisations and lead to long term savings.

The apprenticeship takes up to 24 months to complete and can be delivered on an organisation’s own premises or through online sessions. An initial open day enrolment session will allow each learner to familiarise themselves with the aims, objectives and outcomes of their programme. Throughout the apprenticeship, learners will be required to attend a series of classroom/online sessions covering the technical theory and functional skills (English, Maths—if required) elements of their course. These sessions will be planned in advance to ensure minimal impact on day-to-day business.

Peter Behan
Peter Behan

Evolving technologies

Building owners and operators are always looking for ways to make their commercial buildings more efficient and sustainable - and that is where Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) play an integral role. The challenge for the BEMS Controls Engineer is knowing how to implement the systems to sustain high levels of efficiency.

The next generation of Building Controls Engineers will be the key drivers in evolving technologies. As the world strives to reduce its carbon footprint, the importance of efficient building management continues to grow. One of the results of this is that the technology that goes into buildings, whether new-build or retrofit, is becoming more advanced than ever, and its complexity means trained and qualified engineers are required to install it.

For anyone looking to embark on a career as a BEMS Controls Engineer, we now offer a three-year technical training programme, which offers a balance of on-the-job assessments and technical training covering all aspects of the industry. The BEMS Controls Engineer Apprenticeship has been designed to address an industry-wide shortage of BEMS Controls Engineers and includes a series of classroom and/or online sessions covering the technical theory which is included in the BCIA technical course modules BCM00 – BCM15.

Learning on the job

The first two apprenticeship programmes were fully booked up and the third recently got underway. The feedback has so far been very positive. Zach Stanley, an apprentice with Kendra Energy, said: “I was very attracted to this industry because it allowed me the freedom and the ability to learn in a way I never had before. The hours of learning are in my hands and I can control it. I am able to attend site with another engineer each day and learn a different skill or different part of the system and it is amazing that I am able to have a job and learn at the same time.”

Jake Jarram, an apprentice with Building Controls Specialists, added: “I have been very impressed with how well structured the modules are in the BCIA course I am completing. The lecturer is very experienced and skilled in the industry, showing a very positive outlook on HVAC and is very keen to pass on their knowledge. When working day-to-day for BCS I have developed a great variety of skills which are invaluable to someone of my age, working in various places and contributing towards the completion of the project/maintenance. I am looking forward to my future in the building controls industry.”

There is clearly plenty of momentum behind the apprenticeship movement and whether you are looking to take on an apprentice or to start an apprenticeship yourself, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved.

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