The choice of going to University is becoming an expensive option, with the new fee system leaving many young people seriously considering whether it’s worth the investment, exacerbated by a very shaky job market. There is one business sector that’s booming – the renewables arm of building services engineering (heating, plumbing, air conditioning, refrigeration and electrics) – with legally binding carbon reduction targets and government funding streams driving forward alternatives to fossil fuels for Britain’s homes and businesses.
The industry needs skilled engineers to fit this equipment and a degree’s not the only way to get involved. Cathryn Hickey from the National Skills Academy for Environmental Technologies explains why becoming a building services apprentice could be just the ticket for technically minded students with a desire to save the planet.
“Apprenticeships in trade professions, such as plumbers, heating engineers and electricians, provide a tried and tested route for those looking to learn on the job, while earning money at the same time. Unlike university, apprentices don’t accrue debt during the course, with many staying on with the employer they’ve trained with, so walking straight into a job.
These ‘traditional’ building services disciplines have just become a lot more glamorous thanks to the introduction of new pathways covering the installation of renewables equipment, launched to help meet the countries growing need to cut its carbon production.
New entrants to the sector, usually 16 – 19 year olds leaving school or college, can now learn how to install renewable technologies as part of plumbing and heating advanced apprenticeships. What’s very important to the success of renewables is that installers have a proper background in established building services disciplines.
Technologies covered include solar thermal and heat pumps; providing carbon busting alternatives to heating and hot water, and rainwater harvesting; collecting rainwater for use in appliances such as washing machines. All of these modules include a unit on, ‘Understanding the fundamental principles and requirements of environmental technology systems’, which covers the non-technical skills required to specify and manage microgeneration equipment appropriately, while also supplying the knowledge to sell the concept of renewables on to customers.
For building services apprentices coming to the end of their existing training, don’t worry, it’s not too late to add environmental technologies to your bag of tricks. There are plenty of opportunities to ‘up-skill’ at any point in your career, with industry-leading courses available through the National Skills Academy for Environmental Technologies, a new, nationwide network of government approved renewable and low carbon training.
Consisting of 14 colleges, supported by 80 other providers, situated throughout the country, the National Skills Academy is easily accessible for most sole traders and businesses. All courses are approved by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) – end-users must choose MCS accredited installers and equipment in order to access the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), Feed in Tariffs (FiTs) and Green Deal.
If you’re starting to think about further education or you’ve already taken steps into the building services sector, consider joining the renewables revolution: The marketplace is growing and will continue to do so, plus, by specifying and installing these technologies you will be doing your bit to halt the onslaught of global warming, providing a career you can be proud of.”