An apprenticeship or a vocational training course can launch a career in the heating industry, OFTEC has advised pupils receiving A-Level results today, and GCSE results next Thursday (20 August).

OFTEC is aiming to recruit more young people to the industry in response to the UK skills shortage, which is particularly apparent in the trade sector, the trade association says.

This concern is backed by latest government statistics which show that in the academic year 2013/14, a total of 440,000 apprenticeships were started in England – 70,000 fewer than the previous year.

Major companies and unions have warned that the talent gap, which some in the industry claim has been caused by a continued decline in apprenticeships, is threatening the economy just as it is getting back on its feet.

Apprenticeship schemes combine ‘on the job’ training with college learning to help 16- to 24-year-olds build their careers. Students earn money as they learn, gain qualifications and have the opportunity to develop their skills from an early age by working alongside more experienced staff.

Adrian Lightwood, OFTEC registrations director, said: “Skilled tradespeople are of vital importance to our economy and it’s important to remind young people that vocational qualifications and apprenticeships are not a ‘second class’ choice. They can offer a real opportunity to start a rewarding and secure career.

“For anyone thinking about leaving school at 16, or who doesn’t want to go to university, apprenticeship schemes and vocational courses that place more emphasis on practical skills can be a great option. Consumers are always looking for tradespeople who can demonstrate their professionalism and skills through certification,” Mr Lightwood added.

“By encouraging a new generation of technicians equipped with the right skills and a pride in carrying out their best work, we can help to ensure the current skills gap is plugged and the industry moves from strength to strength.”

Since 2002, OFTEC has run a competent persons scheme that encompasses the training, assessment and registration of technicians working in the oil heating industry. The scheme has recently been extended to cover solid fuel and renewable technologies such as heat pumps and solar thermal, to widen its support for technicians.

With 66% of OFTEC registered technicians aged over 40 years and only 10% under 30, there’s an urgent need to bring new blood into the industry, OFTEC says.