Gearing up for environmental technology

While overall engagement in environmental technologies is increasing in the Building Services Engineering (BSE) sector, there are not enough trained operatives in the UK to cope with any sudden demand over the next two years, according to new research published by SummitSkills, the Sector Skills Council for the BSE sector.

Potential Training Demand in Environmental Technologies in Building Services Engineering: Stage 1 is the first of a set of three reports analysing trends in the sector’s engagement with renewables and the potential impact of these trends on training demands across the UK. SummitSkills interviewed approximately 2000 companies in 2008 and then again in 2009, and identified a number of key findings.

Of particular note was the fact that with the exception of Combined Heat and Power (CHP), Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHP), bio-fuel and fuel cell, the environmental technologies are showing an increase in both engagement and the reported numbers of operatives that have been formally trained. The reduction in CHP engagement may be a cause for concern given the technology’s status as a major green technology in the Government’s Energy White Paper.

The report also found that across the UK, the most engaged-in environmental technologies are grouped around solar water, CHP, and GSHP and ASHP, although engagement is still less than 20% in some cases. Scotland shows a strong leaning towards biomass and rainwater harvesting. Across England, companies have shown the greatest interest in engaging with solar water, GSHP and ASHP and, to a lesser extent, photovoltaic panels. The devolved nations have shown a more varied interest in the technologies they wish to engage in.

Many companies indicated they are engaged in or wish to engage in environmental technologies, for which they do not have the expected core competencies to do so. This could be in part due to these companies being coded for one particular BSE industry while being fully competent in others as well.

Given the level of interest indicated by the companies interviewed, an estimate of potential training needs reveals there is a significant amount that still needs to be done to up-skill the BSE sector to meet potential short-term demand, which in economic modelling terms is two years.

Michael Hammond, Research Manager for SummitSkills said: “It is clear that despite the challenging economic times, a growing number of companies in the sector have invested in environmental technologies training. This is very encouraging given the Government’s commitment to a Low Carbon Agenda. However, there is a big gap between supply and demand, which needs to be aligned to prevent overheating of the supply network and proliferation of rogue traders.”

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