As National Apprenticeship Week begins, a heating and hot water industry leader is highlighting the progress that must be made to encourage more young people into the industry.
With government mandates for greenhouse gas emission reduction looming, concern around the lack of new talent entering the heating engineering and manufacturing sector, and preventing net zero progress, is mounting.
Creating an appealing and accessible pathway into engineering for the next generation of heating professionals will be key to ensuring the gap is closed. Apprenticeships, either with manufacturers or through the network of heating engineers in the UK, will be critical.
Karen Boswell, Managing Director of Baxi UK and Ireland, explains, “We know that low carbon technologies like heat pumps, heat networks, hybrid systems and hydrogen appliances will all be needed to decarbonise heat in the UK. Yet what happens if there is no one to research, develop, manufacture and, crucially, install and maintain the systems into the future?
“Our current population of heating engineers is said to have an average age of over 50, so it’s clear that a younger talent pool is needed to sustain the industry’s future and keep up with customer demand. Apprenticeships with attractive wages and opportunities to develop into a long, rewarding career in such a dynamic sector need to be highlighted to school leavers. Beyond that there must be support for taking on apprentices for installers across the UK to give the engineering students the hands-on experience they need to qualify.”
To play its part in equipping the next generation with skills, Baxi currently employs 37 apprentices across different parts of its business. It has also provided support for Baxi Approved Installers to take on apprentices and continues to partner with colleges across the UK to support budding installers.
Alex Mather, a degree apprentice at Baxi, says, “My apprenticeship at Baxi provides me with real-world insight and understanding of industry that is the perfect complement to my studies at the University of Central Lancashire. In the last four and a half years, I’ve worked in almost all sectors of the site at Preston, developing new skills, meeting a huge variety of people and am currently working in the crucial role of ERP Data Management. The range of experience I am gaining is simply invaluable.”
Baxi also believes it is important to drive interest in engineering at an early age so is taking steps to work on school projects, such as Primary Engineer. The project gives teachers the skills and equipment to run fun and engaging engineering classes for their pupils, with the hope that they will be inspired to pursue a career in engineering later on.
Karen adds, “We recognise that inspiring the heating and engineering apprentices of the future needs to start at a very early age, with support from parents, teachers and even lecturers along the way. If policymakers and businesses can join forces in supporting the next generation throughout qualification and into successful careers, that will put us in a much stronger position to decarbonise heat. With a raft of exciting technologies in development, there has never been a better time to attract the younger generation to the heating industry.”