OFTEC registration figures have hit a five year high and are continuing to rise, underlining the increasing value both technicians and consumers are placing on professional qualifications.
The continued low price of oil compared to electricity, LPG and renewable heating technologies - the other heating options available to off grid households - has seen demand for oil remain strong with many consumers choosing to stick with, or even switch to oil.
Technicians are capitalising on the popularity of oil by renewing or taking out oil registration for the first time, with OFTEC seeing an increasing number of gas technicians expand into the sector to take advantage of the new business opportunities on offer.
It is anticipated the recent announcement by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) that oil boilers will be included in the next round of the Energy Company Obligation (ECO3), will likely spark a further wave of technicians seeking OFTEC registration which is mandatory to work on the scheme.
OFTEC training manager David Knipe comments: “While many sectors are facing uncertainty about the future, the heating profession is thriving. All the time households need heat and hot water, there will be demand for skilled technicians.
“However, what consumers are looking for is changing. Social media means that incidences of poor workmanship are widely shared and consumers are becoming ever more aware of the risks of employing an unqualified tradesperson. OFTEC registration demonstrates competence and provides homeowners with the peace of mind they are dealing with a professional. This puts those technicians who can legitimately display the OFTEC badge at a distinct advantage when quoting for work.
“With heating technologies evolving and sector and business legislation continually changing, even the most experienced technicians can benefit from OFTEC training and the additional benefits this brings, including free technical advice and regular sector updates. Being able to confidently advise customers on the best solution for their needs could make the difference between winning and losing a job.”
To keep pace with the rise in demand, the number of OFTEC training centres across the country has grown to 88, with the total expected to top 90 by the end of the year.
A career in the heating sector offers job security, flexibility and with no shortage of domestic or commercial work, can also prove financially rewarding. However, the sector’s well-publicised skills shortage means there are simply not enough qualified professionals to go around. This situation could be further exacerbated if EU migration is restricted under the final Brexit deal and the industry has to rely solely on home grown talent.
David Knipe continues: “While the heating sector is booming, the unfortunate consequence is a shortfall of skilled technicians available to take on all the work. We need to encourage more young talent into the industry to plug the gap and ensure we have the next generation of technicians coming through.”
To help address the issue, OFTEC has been working closely with both City and Guilds and BPEC to improve the standard of heating and plumbing apprenticeships as part of government’s ‘Trailblazers’ initiative. The scheme aims is to provide sector businesses and industry with the opportunity to design training to ensure it meets their specific needs.
David Knipe concludes: “Last year, just 1,070 heating, ventilating, air conditioning and refrigeration apprenticeships were started in England, accounting for 0.2% of the total number of apprenticeships taken up across the country. This situation needs to change and we are working to make this happen through our involvement with the Trailblazer scheme.
“Apprenticeships can offer an excellent way for businesses to upskill their workforce and expand at low cost. With the Apprenticeship Levy designed to make apprenticeships affordable for all, heating businesses should seriously consider this valuable opportunity.”
OFTEC is currently offering free registration for the first year to newly qualified apprentices in Great Britain and Northern Ireland who have completed training up to Level 3, and in the Republic of Ireland up to Level 6, who are employed with an OFTEC registered business.
OFTEC also offers training and registration in solid fuel and next year, the trade association is attending both the National Association of Chimney Sweeps Exhibition in Stratford upon Avon on 12-13 April and the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps Exhibition in Kenilworth on 1-2 March, to advise chimney sweeps looking to expand into the sector. OFTEC registration services are also available for technicians working in renewable and electrical trades.