CIPHE Manifesto 2024: Mandatory training

The need for mandated training for low-temperature heating and hot water systems is a subject that the CIPHE has been lobbying the government over for some time. This need resulted in the introduction of the Ofqual-accredited Low Temperature Heating and Hot Water Systems in Dwellings qualification in association with the Heat Pump Association, LCL Awards, manufacturers and industry professionals.

“This is a very important subject within the overall context of decarbonising the way we heat our homes and buildings,” says Carl Arntzen, Home Comfort, senior vice president – sales at Worcester Bosch. “Installers are essentially the retailer of heating systems to the consumer here in the UK and therefore play a decisive role in the design and installation of domestic heating systems.

“Although we believe there should be recognition of any appropriate prior skills or qualifications that installers may have acquired relating to the correct design and specification of heating systems, we support the proposal that installers should obtain the necessary skills and knowledge to be able to design low-temperature heating systems through the low-temperature heating design course or an equivalent course. There is no question that this is where all installers will need to be, as we move forward.”

The Heat Pump Association (HPA) has long called for low-temperature heating training to be introduced as a prerequisite to complete the five yearly Accredited Certification Scheme (ACS) assessment and equivalent assessment for oil heating engineers. The organisation supports upskilling.

“The HPA believes that the five-year requirement for re-certification for Gas Safe engineers could be a key opportunity to deliver the retraining or upskilling of installer skills on low-temperature heating,” asserts Charlotte Lee, CEO of the HPA. “The compulsory nature of ACS for Gas Safe would make it a particularly effective option – indeed, retraining or refreshing the skills of the entire mass market of heating installers within a five-year period. Moreover, easily accessible Level 3 courses exist which carry Ofqual approval.”

With the support of the CIPHE, manufacturers and other members of the plumbing and heating industry, the government opened a consultation: Improving Boiler Standards and Efficiency. Part of the consultation included question 19 which asked: Should low-temperature heating system training be mandatory for gas boiler installers to help ensure Building Regulations are met?

Positive response

Out of the 90 responses to this question, 62 agreed that training in low-temperature systems should be mandatory for gas boiler installers.

According to the consultation, several respondents noted the short-term benefits of requiring this training for installers, including improved efficiency, ensuring boilers meet advertised efficiency levels and lowering consumer bills. The long-term benefits highlighted included the creation of a skilled workforce ready for net zero and that “undergoing such training could future-proof domestic heating installer skills in a way that would benefit all wet heating systems and prepare some installers to transition to heat pump installations”.

Respondents’ proposed mechanisms for implementing this requirement was the inclusion of low-temperature heating system design as part of ACS qualifications to be on the Gas Safe Register. Respondents set out that it would ensure all gas installers would undergo the training within five years of introduction. A minority of respondents suggested that these skills should not be ‘evergreen’ and that constant refresher training would be welcome.

Push back

There were 24 respondents who disagreed with question 19 of the consultation and were against introducing low-temperature training as a requirement, while two answered ‘Don’t know’.

It was suggested by some of the respondents that mandatory training would put too much pressure on installers and that retraining would be unfair to already trained installers. Other points raised included the fact that there is not currently an appropriate mechanism for achieving this aim, as Gas Safe’s focus is gas safety.

Training costs were an additional issue flagged by trade bodies and installers, who considered them to be too high due to the combination of loss of earnings on top of course fees. The suggested solution was for the government to pay or offer some form of compensation. Two respondents suggested that total training costs would amount to £100m if the government was to cover the entire cost for all eligible installers.

The government recognises there is a need for mandated training to meet its targets for heat pump installation

Government response

The government’s much-anticipated response to the consultation’s findings stated: “People installing heating systems and self-certifying that their work complies with the Building Regulations must be competent to sign off all aspects of the work, including energy efficiency matters. Competence is checked against the Mandatory Technical Competence (MTC) criteria covering gas heat producing appliances and the installation of heating and hot water systems served by those appliances. The MTC includes a reference to low-temperature training as a prerequisite for gas engineers to demonstrate that they are competent to carry out this type of work.

“Competence is checked against the Mandatory Technical Competence (MTC) criteria covering gas heat producing appliances and the installation of heating and hot-water systems served by those appliances. The MTC includes a reference to low-temperature training as a prerequisite for gas engineers to demonstrate that they are competent to carry out this type of work.

“Based on the feedback and the need to ensure compliance with building regulations, the government intends to move forward with introducing the requirement for low-temperature training for boiler installers. The department will work with relevant stakeholders and organisations to discuss implementation and an appropriate timeline.’

The CIPHE has welcomed the government’s response, but highlights the continuing need for greater financial support of training schemes to be able to deliver on the government’s net zero targets.

“I am delighted that government has listened to us,” says Kevin Wellman, CEO of the CIPHE. “The low-temperature qualification that the CIPHE promotes through LCL Awards will give thousands of installers access to training throughout the UK. However, the government needs to do more in terms of funding for our industry which comprises a majority of micro SMEs.”

Taking action

So far, only around 11,000 installers have been trained in low-temperature heating and hot water systems under the government grant. While this may seem a lot, this is no way near what is needed to deliver the heat pump rollout. According to the HPA, 33,700 installers (full-time equivalent) will be required by 2030 to meet the anticipated heat pump demand generated by the government’s net zero targets.

“To meet the government’s ambition to install 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028, it is essential to grow the number of qualified and competent heat pump installers,” says Lee.

“The requirement for low-temperature heating training should be incorporated into the soon-to-be published updated Minimum Technical Competencies (MTCs) that installers will need to meet if they wish to self-certify their heating installations in compliance with the Building Regulations.

“Incorporating low-temperature heating training into mandatory certification processes and updating Minimum Technical Competencies are crucial steps. This approach not only supports the upskilling or reskilling of the installer workforce but also aligns with the broader objective of enhancing energy efficiency, reducing carbon emissions and decarbonisation of domestic heating.”

The practical implications of retraining an entire industry are huge, as engineers will need to upskill to design, install and maintain low-temperature heating systems with heat pump technology. Additionally, professionals will also need to be aware of the whole home energy efficiency measures that will need to be taken to ensure systems work effectively and efficiently.

What you can do

Make sure you and the people you employ are ready for the next stage in decarbonising the UK’s heating and hot water systems. The CIPHE’s Low Temperature Heating and Hot Water Design qualification teaches professionals to both design and install low-temperature systems, so they will have the knowledge, competence and confidence to install these technologies.

For more information on the course, visit:

ciphe.org.uk/professional/careers--trainees/low-temperature-heating-and-hot-water-qualification

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