According to new reports, UK firms are facing a skills gap. Mark Krull looks at the options for businesses in the heating and plumbing sector to plug this shortage, creating employees with the right talent through training.

A recent survey by the CIB has revealed that two in every three businesses (68%) expect their need for staff with higher level skills to grow in the years ahead; more than half of those surveyed (55%) fear that they will not be able to access enough workers with the required skills.

With demand for skilled workers seemingly outstripping the available pool, a better option for many businesses may be to look at existing staff, friends and family members, investing in training to create employees that meet specific business needs.

By choosing already trusted individuals, an element of the unknown is removed and, in many instances, the cost of this training will be cheaper than recruitment.

Apart from ensuring your business has the skills it requires to succeed, by developing your team, motivation, loyalty and staff retention will all benefit, making your company a great place to work.

Ways to train

‘Upskilling’ comes in many different guises – from general continuous development at work and making sure your team are aware of latest industry developments, to more structured learning at college or a dedicated training centre.

Upskilling can also mean making sure you make the most of your experienced employees by using them to mentor the less experienced, ensuring valuable skills are handed down through a company, rather than being lost when people retire.

The internet has made the accessibility of learning easier than ever before, with online learning options that offer greater flexibility – self-paced modules allow users to complete tasks at a time to suit them.

When it comes to paying for training – something that can pose a stumbling block, particularly for smaller businesses – options like apprenticeship programmes may provide funding, and some training providers can offer flexible payment options to spread the cost.

So, what does your business need to succeed? Fresh young talent, staff with a bit more nous, or to harness keen and eager team members with the right attitude to take the next step in their career.

The tried and tested route

Many installers will have started their career as an apprentice, a tried and tested route to a trades-based vocation. This is a great option for any business, including sole traders for whom recruiting a fully qualified operative may be cost prohibitive – particularly where they have a family member in mind to drive their business forward.

Funding is available to support apprenticeship programmes, although you will still need to pay an apprentice’s wages. With much of the learning being done in the workplace, apprentices get to earn while they learn, and you’ll benefit from jobs being completed while they learn.

Topping up existing skills

If you have people working for you that have on-the-job experience, but some gaps in their knowledge and a lack of industry-recognised qualifications, an Approved Prior Learning (APL) training route could be a great option.

Typical candidates would be those with transferable skills, such as plumbers or those who work under the supervision and training of a Gas Safe registered person, but do not yet have the skills to undertake the ACS qualifications. An APL training course is an in-depth training programme covering all aspects of domestic gas safety and will assist candidates in joining the Gas Safe Register.

In some instances, you or your staff may have so much experience that all that’s missing is the qualification. In this instance, an Experienced Trades Package could be an option. Suitable candidates might already have a related qualification, such as City & Guilds 6089 Level 2 or Level 3 and are therefore able to undertake the ACS assessments without the need to build a portfolio of on-site work experience.

Next time you find yourself with the happy problem of having too much work on, don’t automatically start looking for new staff; what you need could be right under your nose.

Mark Krull is director at Logic4training