Continued investment in training essential to deliver on Net Zero ambitions

The transition to low carbon heating will be driven by the training industry and support for providers must be front and centre of the UK’s decarbonisation strategy if we are to accelerate the rollout of low carbon technologies and achieve our Net Zero targets.

That’s the verdict of OFTEC, a leading trade association which accredits technicians installing off-grid heating equipment and is committed to ensuring homes and businesses have safe and efficient heating systems.

The government has pledged a widescale rollout of heat pumps but the pace of change has been slow, partly due to the lack of qualified technicians to install the technology.

“The way we heat our homes is going to change over the next few years which presents a real opportunity for installers. Technicians who diversify today will have a head start and futureproof their business”, say David Knipe, training manager at OFTEC.

“Whilst we see liquid fuels as continuing to have a major role in the off-grid sector through a transition to greener fuels such as Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO), the growing role of heat pumps can’t be ignored. That’s why the training sector is so important.

“Consumers are going to need guidance on whether the technology is suitable for their home and competent technicians to maintain high safety standards. OFTEC technicians should be front and centre with the expertise to install the full range of off-grid technologies.”

OFTEC is delivering two subsidised heat pump training courses through its network of 17 approved training centres. Technicians who enrol on the course before the end of March 2023 can also benefit from a discount of up to 70% after OFTEC’s successful application for funding through BEIS’ £9.2m Home Decarbonisation Skills Training competition.

Case study – a inside look at how one training centre runs its heat pump course

Gastec is a Milton Keynes based provider which has been training technicians for 27 years. The OFTEC approved centre delivers heat pump training alongside solid fuel and liquid fuels. Philip Jenkins, who manages the renewable training courses at Gastec, shares his insights into how the training is delivered.

“There’s sometimes a misconception around training courses in the heating sector”, says Philip. “Our purpose is to ensure technicians have the skills they need to safely install heat pumps and we pride ourselves on the high standards we set.

“Our courses are led by six of the best trainers in the industry who all have extensive hands on experience working on the tools. We’ve designed our training to be practical-led, using a mix of live demonstrations and mobile rigs we’ve setup, so participants get to see the real life application of the skills they’re learning in the academic side of the programme.

“We’re often asked about the length of the three day course but it’s important to stress there are pre-requisites before you can enrol so it’s not a cold start. For some participants, it’s a refresher as they typically return every five years as there’s always new developments in the technology. We were also classed as an ‘essential’ business during the pandemic which means we’ve invested heavily in ensuring we have a safe environment for installers.

“There’s no ‘typical’ participant as we get a mix of small family businesses and sole traders. Demand remains high with a steady flow of around 100 installers through our door a month but I think there’s scope for more technicians to get involved.

“We recognise it takes time away from the day job and it’s a financial commitment, but with the current discounts for our OFTEC courses through BEIS funding, it’s a great time to invest in your skills and put yourself in prime position for the changes coming down the track.”

Upon completion, participants can apply for MCS certification to install heat pumps through government schemes such as the Home Upgrade Grant or Boiler Upgrade Scheme. They will also be able to self-certify their installations as compliant with Building Regulations.

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