CIPHE's Education and Training Survey results

Thank you to everyone who participated in the survey. We were aware, anecdotally, of concerns with the current Plumbing & Domestic Heating Technician Apprenticeship. Further investigation identified a 25% fall in the number of plumbing apprenticeships being undertaken, in addition to increasing numbers failing to complete End Point Assessments, so we were keen to add some quantitative information on the current state of play. The CIPHE survey was conducted over a period of six weeks, between 20 February 2024 and 2 April 2024, with a total of 361 responses received. Views were particularly sought from two key categories:

  • Owners of businesses providing plumbing and heating services in the UK
  • People working in the education sector

We also made sure that we targeted responses from non-members.

  • 9 out of 10 respondents believe that there should be both Level 2 and Level 3 entry points for careers as a plumber.

Business owners

Opinions on whether the plumbing apprenticeship should include extended pathways, such as gas, were split almost down the middle, with 49% of employers believing that they should be outside of the plumbing apprenticeship and 47% believing extended pathways should be included. When asked to imagine a scenario that included the following apprenticeships:

Level 2: Health & safety, pipe installation, kitchens, bathrooms, basic wet systems, drainage

Level 3: All of the above, plus system commissioning, design, complex domestic and light commercial system installations and maintenance

  • 35% said they would choose Level 2
  • 65% said they would choose Level 3

This means that currently there is not apprenticeship provision available to meet the needs of one in three plumbing businesses within our sample.

  • Just 38% of employers described themselves as fully understanding (13%) or mostly understanding (25%) the current trailblazer standard for Plumbing and Domestic Heating Technicians
  • 8 out of 10 employers who responded to the survey support an experienced worker route to professional recognition, with a third of them believing they have somebody working in their business who would benefit from the introduction of such a pathway today
  • 42% of employers have no members of staff in their business with heat pump qualifications

Education sector

When looking only at the responses of those working in the education sector, the survey found that 78% believe that they have employers placing learners who would support a Level 2 qualification, with even more (85%) believing there is a widespread demand for it.

  • 38% of education specialists believe that the biggest beneficiaries of a Level 2 qualification would be the learners themselves, with 31% believing the plumbing and heating industry would benefit the most
  • 86% of respondents from within the education sector believe their college would like to see Intermediate Level 2 and Advanced Level 3 plumbing apprenticeships made available

What next?

The CIPHE fundamentally believes that plumbing knowledge must be the foundation for those working on domestic water and heating systems. The dreadful fall in the number of plumbing apprenticeships being completed means that urgent action is required. Without better-funded qualification standards, the UK risks sleep-walking into a situation where under-trained and incompetent people are relied upon to build, service and manage water distribution systems in people’s homes.

With the support of a number of government departments, industry manufacturers, colleges and training centres, and a large number of industry-representative plumbing employers (who have already met), the CIPHE has formed a group that is working on developing a new plumbing apprenticeship standard that will re-engage with the industry and provide the next generation of plumbers.

If you would like to know more, or would like to be involved, please contact Kevin Wellman, at kevinw@ciphe.org.uk

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