Richard Newman looks at how the industry can help the next generation of installers to make their mark.

It's becoming increasingly difficult for young people to make their mark in the workplace, but what can firms in the heating and hot water sector do to help while ensuring they have the talent they need to grow their own businesses?

A recent study by education charity Central YMCA revealed that just one in 10 employers believe that young people enter the workforce fully prepared with the skills required to become an effective and efficient employee.

This is a startling figure when you consider that students exiting university are, on average, beginning their careers later in life than previous generations, and starting out with a debt typically in the region of £44,000.

For new graduates, it is now more important than ever for them to ensure that they are fully prepared for the demands of the 21st century workplace, particularly with competition for jobs being tougher than ever. Top jobs are hard to come by, as demonstrated by the fact that one in five graduates across the whole working population is employed in low skilled work.

Companies within the heating and plumbing sector are also facing their own challenges. With energy prices on the rise and customer demands to minimise bills becoming ever louder, as well as the added pressures to reduce carbon emissions, innovation within the industry is crucial. To facilitate this, firms must address the need to attract top talent from universities and colleges, and encourage them to commit to a career within the industry.

As we all know, the heating and hot water sector can offer a rewarding and progressive career for bright young graduates. With a little hard work and dedication, youngsters can become plumbers, technicians, product designers or trainers, among a range of other positions – for aspiring HVAC young professionals, the opportunities really are limitless.

While youngsters can plan for a rewarding career in the industry, it's important that firms are planning for the future too.

Obviously, we need to ensure we have fresh talent ready to take over from older heads who are looking towards retirement, but the advent of new technologies and evolving energy legislation has created new challenges, which the brightest young minds can help us to solve.

What's more, many of the tools necessary to do business in the 21st century are second nature to a generation that have grown-up with smart devices. In fact, the average child born today will be proficient in technology by the time they are just four years old.

So, what can we do to entice young people into a career within our industry?

Internships are undoubtedly a strong pull. Today's university graduates often spend time after, or even during, their studies working within an organisation to gain real world experience. Many will complete work experience in the holidays to give them an extra head start in the workplace.

For young up and comers this is one of the best ways to kick start their career, opening doors to positions that would otherwise be difficult to acquire.

But internships are also a great way to advertise your business to bright young students, who might be looking for their best options after college or university. By showing them the best elements of your company now, you could be putting in place the foundations for a loyal employee who will contribute for years to come.

Another way to put your business in front of graduates is to tie up with colleges and universities. Attend their career open days, or even work with them to hold initiatives that will benefit the students.

At Heatrae Sadia we recently held our Design Awards, which encouraged students to submit problem-solving designs for the heating and hot water industry. Not only did this give students the opportunity to get creative and design a real product, but it also gave them a flavour of the demands and the challenges that come with working for a successful manufacturing company.

The future is undoubtedly bright for the heating and hot water industry, but in order to maximise our potential for growth it is important to invest in the next generation. By putting the groundwork in early on, firms can ensure they reap the rewards for years to come with switched-on, innovative employees who have all the 21st century skills necessary to help their businesses grow.

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Richard Newman is senior product manager at Heatrae Sadia