Martyn Bridges, Director of Technical Communication and Product Management at Worcester Bosch, discusses the twin effect of changing technologies and the pandemic on installer qualifications on the road to net-zero 2050.

With the rise in new heating technologies, there has never been a greater need for installer training courses to embrace these quite different products.

Unfortunately, there has been a lack of availability due to the pandemic, so installers have understandably grown increasingly frustrated at being unable to renew existing qualifications or complete new training courses.

As we gear up for the long road to net-zero 2050, Worcester Bosch is increasing the number of training courses to ensure installers are trained to fit new heating technologies.

A year of restrictions

For more than 12 months, we have seen impatience from installers whose qualifications have lapsed due to the pandemic and restricted face-to-face training programmes.

Historically, qualifications which installers legally require to undertake gas and oil boilers have always been face-to-face, which would typically take up to four days to complete.

The training is typically limited to eight people within a room and the course is both in-depth and taxing to complete and needs to be renewed every five years.

The governing bodies, Gas Safe Register, OFTEC, and other authority bodies have been understanding to the lapse of qualifications throughout 2020 and accept a delay in renewal from installers as many training centres have been shut or are significantly restricted in capacity.

Social distancing, in Worcester’s case, has been enforced to reduce the number of delegates we are able to handle by 50%, to ensure a safe working environment for both the delegates and the training engineers involved.

Decarbonising skills

Notwithstanding holding and renewing qualifications, there is an impatience about decarbonising the heating industry, which means fitting different appliances, such as heat pumps, which will require the installer to run a heat loss calculation and radiator and pipework sizing exercise. Processes that they may not have undertaken for some time.

I think training centres and manufacturers will be in for a busy three to four years, not just catching up on renewing qualifications, but also with new courses coming online.

Governments have heat pumps on their technology list to install, with a target of 600,000 a year according to figure stated by Boris Johnson. This is going to require a 20-fold increase in installers and subsequent increase in training course places to ensure all are trained and effectively qualified to fit this technology.

Light at the end of the tunnel

While we have increased the availability of ACS gas safety courses by 27% since last year, the amount of delegates we’ve seen is still down on what it would have been, even with fewer courses.

We are now seeing the relaxation of some national restrictions, which we are hoping will continue to ease towards the end of the year.

As a result of the pandemic, we have had over 18 months of training either cancelled or present in reduced volumes, we are now seeing the relaxation of some national restrictions, which we are hoping will continue to ease towards the end of the year.

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. With the roll out of vaccinations and restrictions being lifted at a steady rate, we are optimistic that we will be able to return to normal volumes and then provide spaces on courses for installers who need to complete or renew their qualifications.

In summary, it remains a frustrating time for installers who are struggling to renew their qualifications. The leniency of the certification bodies means that installers can continue to practice past their renewal date if they have unsuccessfully attempted to book onto a training course and will be reassessed when spaces become available.

All in all, we are doing what we can. At Worcester Bosch, we will continue to make courses available while keeping everybody safe and healthy.