Dan Wild, UK & Ireland Business Unit Director at Conex Bänninger, explains how the industry is helping installers continue learning despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The HVAC industry has over the decades been relatively traditional, with progress often being made through smaller steps rather than giant leaps forward. One of the bigger, newer ‘leaps’ has been the development of mechanically pressed fittings, which could replace brazing as the new favoured pipework jointing solution. 

Until relatively recently, the route for heating engineers and plumbers to educate themselves about this and other new technologies was, almost exclusively, face-to-face learning.

This meant finding time while on a job for an on-site training session, visiting a training centre during the working day, or joining an out-of-hours event.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all that, by acting as a cyber-accelerant for installers and manufacturers, who both needed to find a new path for sharing and building knowledge and skillsets.

As a result, recent months have seen a rapid expansion in online learning opportunities, such as educational webinars and more formal training modules.

New ways to learn

The enthusiasm with which our own newly-launched webinars were greeted, on our >B< Press fittings range, has shown that installers are as eager to take advantage of this new way of learning as we are to act as host.

Not only does this form of education give them the chance to learn without losing valuable time travelling, they are still free to ask questions in ‘real-time’ and directly to the session leader.

When the time and conditions are right, it is likely that some face-to-face training will resume, but such has been the take-up of digital forms of communication in recent months, we believe it will continue to play an important role in the working life of installers in the future. 

Another major change has been the replacement of popular ‘live’ trade shows with virtual events, with visitors ‘meeting’ exhibitors and catching up on trends, techniques, and new product developments through videos and other online content. Again, this is something the whole industry will need to embrace, particularly as awareness of environmental issues grows, such as making fewer journeys, but also in saving time.

Social media savvy

The HVAC community has long been a keen adopter of social media, recognising the opportunities not only to promote their businesses and showcase their work, but also to support each other, share experiences, and hints and tips.

The various platforms also give them the opportunity to engage with suppliers and manufacturers, asking questions that may range from the practical to the technical. Here, installers have to some extent been the trend-setters in choosing which channels best meet their needs.

While Twitter remains popular for catching up on breaking news and interacting with brands in real-time, there is a growing community on Instagram, which is more focused towards videos and photos.

This led us to extend our own social reach last year, with a presence on Instagram, which installers can benefit from in terms of updates, offers, and competitions. As a showcase for their work, and as a resource, social media is an important tool for the modern installer’s marketing kit.

So, while the job itself will always be a practical one, the importance of the digital world in the day-to-day life of heating engineers and plumbers will only get stronger