With many employers looking to expand or diversify to capitalise on the growing and competitive gas engineering market, Mark Krull takes a look at the benefits of nurturing new industry talent and workers from related trades in order to upskill business operations and the industry as a whole.

Over the past decade, the building services sector has been hit by diminishing uptake of professions across the board. Over a third of plumbing and gas vacancies can be attributed to the industry-wide 'skills shortage'. If we are to boost productivity and the economy in a post-Brexit world, it's clear that an all-round effort if required to inspire, recruit and train the next generation of building services stars.

As most HVP readers will know, the route to becoming a fully qualified gas engineer involves:

  • A recognised gas industry qualification and/or
  • Accredited Certification Scheme (ACS) training and assessment
  • Gas Safe registration.

If your business is growing and needs some new gas engineers to add to the mix, there are a lot of benefits to upskilling existing employees, or taking on new recruits with enthusiasm and related experience, but maybe not a full ACS qualification. By offering training and career development, good staff are more likely to stay with your business and pay can be scaled as their expertise grows, providing a more manageable route to expansion.

Career Cross-Over

Many existing tradespeople have transferable skills gained over years of experience working within a related discipline, such as plumbing or kitchen fitting. If they are willing to train, these candidates make valuable additions to the workforce as they already possess a breadth of skills, confidence and knowledge gained from wider building services experience.

The ability to follow technical instructions and communicate effectively, for example, alongside practical skills such as lifting floorboards, making good holes and passing pipework through walls and floors will ultimately mean training time is reduced and professional service achieved in a shorter time frame. A New Entrants course, therefore, is ideal for experienced tradespeople looking to move into gas, providing the additional knowledge, training and assessment required to meet the requirements of Gas Safe Registration.

Invest in People

For school leavers or new entrants without any prior experience, an apprenticeship is the ideal route, with candidates achieving their gas industry qualification by learning on-the-job under the supervision of a Gas Safe-registered engineer.

The government has recently acknowledged the value of apprentices to the future of UK industry and is reforming apprenticeship standards to help meet the changing needs of employers, give better training and simplify the funding system. Businesses can obtain funding for new apprenticeship roles under the newly-introduced Apprenticeship Levy, which aims to create 3 million new apprenticeships by 2020. However, it's important to note that funding under the Levy can also be used to develop existing staff, as long as training fits within the approved standards.

Apprenticeships can really revitalise a company, bringing fresh new ideas into the mix, as well as the digital skills essential to the modern business. Apprenticeships also offer an opportunity to develop staff within the ethos of the business, leading to a motivated and satisfied workforce that is loyal to its roots.

Gas installation and maintenance engineer apprenticeships can take anything between one and four years to complete, with one day per week reserved for studying towards an advanced level 3 apprenticeship. Depending on the field of study, this can give the equivalent qualification to a degree or Master's degree, attracting a high-calibre of candidates who do not want the expense and job uncertainty of going to university.

The final piece in the jigsaw of Gas Safe Registration is ACS accreditation and, whatever options you choose for your staff, it must culminate in this. It is illegal to trade as a gas installers without Gas Safe Registration and potentially leaves end users open to serious safety concerns. Once a Level 3 NVQ gas qualification has been achieved, this provides a valid ACS certificate for five years.

The introduction of new skills and people into your business is essential for long-term growth and development, but there is also a bigger picture. Vacancies for gas and heating engineers are rising and there are simply not enough skilled professionals to fill them. The future of the industry depends on new entrants, from school leavers to existing workers wanting to re-train, so we all need to do our bit to inspire the next generation, communicating the benefits of a career in gas and providing ample opportunities for high quality training.

Logic4training has launched the 'Ultimate Guide to Careers in Gas', a practical and clear guide to kick starting and developing a career as a gas engineer. The guide can be downloaded free from www.logic4training.co.uk/guides/ultimate-guide-careers-gas.

Mark Krull is director at Logic4training