The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) is launching a government-backed online training course for heat pump installation to help fill a skills gap highlighted by the government’s flagship Green Homes Grant voucher scheme.

BESA is developing the installer training in collaboration with the Home Builders Federation and manufacturer Worcester Bosch. It will be delivered through the association’s online training Academy and goes live in March.

To kickstart the scheme, 700 free places are being offered to qualified plumbing and heating engineers looking to upskill and carry out heat pump work. They should sign up here now as demand is expected to be high and there will be a charge for the training from May.

This initiative is also receiving funding from the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) as government officials recognise the need to accelerate specialised training to support the grant scheme, which has been extended until March 2022, and to ensure air source heat pumps are correctly installed and maintained.

BESA’s Head of Technical Graeme Fox said the heat pump market represented “an absolutely colossal opportunity” for suitably qualified engineers but warned that the industry would have “to rapidly scale up capacity and needed considerable investment in additional skills to deliver all these hugely ambitious targets”.

Industry estimates for this year put the current number of heat pump installations at around 71,000. So, ramping that up to achieve the government’s ultimate target would require a huge leap in headcount for the industry. The BESA Academy training scheme is a direct response to that challenge, according to the association’s Director of Training and Skills Helen Yeulet.

“One of the biggest barriers to increased adoption of heat pump technology and the take up of the green home grants is the lack of suitably qualified installers,” she added. “It is also very important that installations meet a high technical standard and that engineers fully understand the technology, so consumers get the full energy and carbon saving benefits.

“We are delighted to be working in collaboration with the HBF and Worcester Bosch because our combined expertise means we can include the most up-to-date knowledge in the training and use people who really understand the subject to deliver it.”

It is also hoped that the availability of training will give small firms in particular the confidence to diversify into this market and take up work offered through the grant scheme.

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