Jon Graham, Chief Executive at JTL, discusses how apprenticeships are now rising to the challenge of net zero, with the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IFATE) setting up an advisory panel to ensure all apprenticeships consider how they can contribute to climate change goals.
Net zero ambitions have been important to us for a while here at JTL and are rapidly becoming a priority for industries across the board, so it is pertinent to note that there is an undeniably huge opportunity for roles in low carbon heating. The contents of the government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy signals developments over time that will bring about huge changes to the plumbing and heating industry. These include phasing out the installation of new and replacement natural gas boilers by 2035, as well as a consultation on ending gas grid connections to new build homes from 2025.
With around 26 million of the UK’s 28 million homes currently heated by gas, there will be a huge demand for roles in low carbon heating and it is no surprise that most of the current workforce work with gas. Transitioning that workforce to a future where heat pumps and hydrogen provide the majority of domestic heating is an enormous challenge.
Existing courses for apprenticeships in low carbon heating
As of today, heat pumps are an optional pathway within the current plumbing and domestic heating technician apprenticeship – the other pathways being gas, oil and solid fuel. At present, gas is by far the most popular choice, with over 90% of JTL employers and apprentices choosing this pathway. However, we are about to see a drastic shift in this as apprenticeships are rising to the challenge of net zero.
IFATE – the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education – has now set up a green apprenticeships advisory panel which has been put in place to review all apprenticeships. The panel will make sure all apprenticeships begin to prioritise how they can contribute towards climate change goals. Additionally, an employer group has been set up with the aim of developing a new apprenticeship for the occupation of a Low Carbon Heating Technician.
Development is currently underway, and the initial proposal has been approved by the IFATE board.
Government and other key stakeholders are all involved in this new standard which is planned to be at Level 3. The standard is likely to have a 36-month duration and has an expected release date of late 2022. A brief outline of the role is to plan, select and size, install, commission, service and maintain (including fault finding, diagnosis and repair) low carbon heating and hot water systems in buildings. This will include dwellings, as well as industrial and commercial premises. Low carbon heat sources include, but are not limited to, ground and air source heat pumps and solar thermal collectors.
As a training provider, we have limited opportunity to input directly into the development of new standards as these are employer led. However, JTL will continue to monitor the development of this standard closely in order to support the sector and employers in the coming years.
Additionally, the plumbing and domestic heating apprenticeship is also being reviewed by the panel of employers that developed the standard, and we are expecting to see changes that reflect how priorities have shifted since it was released back in 2018. Likewise, we anticipate that we may see hydrogen being included in the gas engineering operative apprenticeship.
The importance of upskilling
As a leading apprenticeship training provider, we want to ensure that training of new entrants to the sector reflects the latest technologies, whilst meeting the changing needs of employers as we move away from fossil fuels and gas in particular. JTL will be upskilling our own teaching and assessment workforce so that they are keeping up to date with the latest developments. We carry this out via a comprehensive programme of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) which encourages staff to leave the classroom and go back onto site.
For example, some of our team will be visiting the hydrogen homes in Gateshead in the near future as part of the planned CPD programme. In addition, we plan to adapt our workshops and invest in new appliances and tools to allow our apprentices to practise on the new low carbon technologies.
From the first stage of getting in touch by filling in an enquiry form and then getting matched with your ideal apprentice, to funding advice and getting support from a dedicated training officer, JTL is on hand to help employers throughout the whole process.
It’s important to note that there is no training cost for the learner undertaking an apprenticeship. If you’re an employer looking to find out more about financial support for low carbon training, visit our costs and funding page.