Apprenticeships recruitment drive

The Trade Taster Days allow young people to tackle practical challenges

With a significant shortage of qualified heating and plumbing engineers in the UK, there is a desperate need to attract higher numbers and a more diverse demographic into the industry.

All inclusive

The COVID-19 outbreak had a significant impact on apprenticeship starts, which fell in 2020. This, coupled with the end of workers from the EU being able to work in the UK, could see price rises for consumers and more unqualified people entering the sector, so it’s in everyone’s interest to encourage more apprentices into the industry.

“Giving access to all groups of people in society, including disadvantaged groups who would not generally get access to business and industry due to their circumstances, is incredibly important in my view,” says Jason Clark, LCGI EngTech FCIPHE RP MIOD. “This is something I do as a business owner on a regular basis as part of my company commitment to social responsibility.

“It’s important to include a more diverse demographic to show that the industry is open to all. We can do this by way of highlighting people that have achieved and become a trailblazer, such as the current first black president of the CIPHE, Mel Gumbs. I hope to continue to improve awareness and include a wider demographic by hosting students and apprentices at my business for inspirational talks.”

The industry is beginning to move away from the stereotypical view of what a tradesperson should look like and consumers will ultimately benefit from the variety of skills a diverse industry will bring.

Underutilised resource

Historically, the heating and plumbing industry has been male dominated, but the number of female tradespeople is on the rise. According to Direct Line, there were an estimated 15,000 tradeswomen working in 2009 compared to 33,000 in 2019 – that’s an exponential increase of 120% in a decade.

So what’s changed? Well, in addition to a change in public perception of traditional male and female roles, the pandemic has driven interest in the industry. The roles of heating and plumbing engineers were deemed as essential throughout the COVID-19 outbreak and therefore offered job security in a time of uncertainty. In fact, according to a study by Powered Now, during 2020, 21% of UK women contemplated a career in the trades. The same study also found that 15% of women already working in the industry saw record demand for their services.

“When I began my apprenticeship in 1987 there were no women on my course and I had not encountered any female tradespeople on site,” recalls Jason. “Whilst female tradespeople are much more common in the industry today, I would like to see many more.”

Spreading the word

Engaging face to face with prospective apprentices is a great way to drive interest in careers within the heating and plumbing sector.

Baxi recently participated in a trade taster day at Myton School in Warwick, to help educate students about the breadth of careers available in plumbing and heating and encourage the future generation to join the industry.

The event, which was organised by specification client, L&Q, was attended by Baxi trainers, Rob Pearson and Ian Trott, who spoke to pupils about what life is like working in the sector, with practical, hands-on workshops held to engage all those attending.

The sessions, which ran for around 45 minutes, provided schoolchildren with the opportunity to explore and experience different trades. All groups were able to spend valuable time with the people who are considered experts in their field.

The interactive experience enabled students to ask questions whilst participating in practical challenges. This hands-on experience not only gave students the opportunity to try tasks for themselves, but increase their knowledge of possible future career opportunities. The aim of this experience was to allow students to make more informed choices about employment options when they leave school.

“Sharing our knowledge with the younger generation is crucial when it comes to bridging the skills gap in our industry,” says Rob. “Taking the time to explore the different parts of a boiler, solve fun challenges and interact with students can make all the difference when it comes to encouraging younger people to pursue a career in the heating industry. This is why trade taster days are so invaluable and give us a great chance to raise the profile of just how diverse and rewarding working in this sector can be.”

Government support

In August last year the government launched a flexi-job apprenticeship offer in response to the changing world of work. The aim of the flexi-job apprenticeships is to help employers overcome structural barriers to make greater use of apprenticeships. They will also support businesses in all sectors to make a sustainable investment in the skills they need to grow, and build a diverse talent pipeline for the future.

In sectors where flexible or project-based working are the norm, new flexi-job apprenticeship agencies will bridge the gap to help employers realise the benefits of apprenticeships for their business.

According to the Education and Skills Funding Agency: “We are inviting sector bodies, groups of employers and other interested organisations to register as flexi-job apprenticeship agencies, giving them access to the £7m fund to support new agencies with their start-up costs.”

Prospective agencies need to be able to demonstrate that they understand the skills needs of their sector or region, can work towards financial sustainability in the coming years.

“Flexi-job apprenticeships put apprentices in the driving seat and enable them to complete their apprenticeship across multiple short employment contracts,” says Kevin Wellman, chief executive officer of the CIPHE. “This seems to be even more likely now that the government has invited providers to submit an ‘Expression of Interest’ to engage in the pilot to test this new model of apprenticeship delivery and support developments in the apprenticeship programme.”

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