The impact of COVID-19 has hit all areas of industry in a variety of different ways; with mass redundancies, restructures and the need for diversification now dominating the headlines. It has also made a lot of people question their own careers and what is important to them; in fact, Google searches for the term ‘career change’ are up more than 500% on this time last year.

With more than half of the heating and plumbing industry’s workforce due to retire in the next decade, and so many people considering a career change (either through choice or necessity), is there a window of opportunity for the heating engineering and plumbing industry to attract men and women to the industry?

Why is there a need for recruitment in the industry?

In 2017, the Gas Safe Register’s ‘Decade in Review’ found that the average age of heating installers was 55, with over half of respondents being this age or older. The report also found that over 50 per cent of engineers are concerned about keeping up with advancing and unfamiliar technology. Over the next decade, this aging With more than half of the heating and plumbing industry’s workforce due to retire in the next decade, and so many people considering a career changeworkforce will begin to reduce their working hours or retire completely. With fewer young people deciding to train as a heating installer, the industry will quickly lose valuable experience as the workforce diminishes.

In addition, a survey by the Centre for Ageing Better found that, of 500 employers, only 20% have considered how they will tackle an aging workforce, and 24% have no strategies in place.

How can heating installers promote their career path?

As of October 2020, the UK unemployment rate has risen to its highest level (4.5%) in over three years. According to the ONS, an estimated 1.5 million people were unemployed between June and August, while redundancies stood at 227,000. Of those now facing unemployment, about 300,000 are aged 16-24.

With so many young people out of work, and plenty of adults looking to make the move from an office-based role to one that’s ‘more rewarding’, a career in the trade could be an attractive option. But, how can heating installers market themselves as a prosperous career path to these people?

Be positive on social media

Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn have provided installers with a way to market themselves to customers, share their successes, and connect with others in the industry. This is all great, but often heating installers use social media to vent their frustrations, complain about long hours and feeling tired, or even complaining about customer behaviour.

While this is absolutely understandable (we all need to let off steam from time to time), this kind of content should be shared on private accounts only seen by family and friends. It may be worth setting up a second account which can be seen by the public and only share positive content there. This will show followers (who are potential recruits and customers) the more positive aspects of the career.

Talk about benefits and progression opportunities

When attracting young people to any profession, you need to emphasize the opportunities it offers in terms of progression, potential earnings, and other benefits such as being self-employed and therefore being able to manage your own hours and holidays.

Offer an apprenticeship scheme

By offering a paid apprenticeship scheme you can attract both young people and older career changers who have financial responsibilities to meet. You know better than any that it takes time to train as a heating installer, as well as a lot of on the job experience, and a paid apprenticeship could make the career a viable option for people with financial commitments. Make it clear to new recruits that they will be supported and mentored throughout their training.

Will the Green Homes Grants scheme help the heating industry?

Finally, it is important to address the government’s Green Homes Grants scheme which began accepting applications in September and will be open until 31st March 2021. The scheme offers £5,000 vouchers to homeowners in England to cover two-thirds of the cost of energy-saving improvements such as improving insulation and installing renewable heating systems like heat pumps, biomass boilers, and solar thermal panels.

In addition to encouraging homeowners to reduce their carbon emissions in line with the government’s target of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, the scheme Google searches for the term ‘career change’ are up more than 500% on this time last yearis also intended to boost employment. The increased interest and investment in the renewable energy sector could indeed open up more opportunities for the unemployed, but as the scheme is only open until March 2021, this does not seem to be a particularly long-term approach. Homeowners cannot use the grant to install a more efficient gas or oil boiler, so it is unlikely to help the heating industry to attract recruits who will become traditional boiler installers, but it may kickstart the renewable heating industry and encourage existing heating professionals to diversify their skillset.

Of course, there is always the possibility that increased awareness of the need to reduce carbon emissions and make our homes more efficient will have a knock-on effect for the boiler installation industry, but only time will tell.

Use digital advertising

When people are looking for a job, or even when they are just passing the time at home during lockdown, they will usually be online. When you have a job opening or an apprenticeship on offer, be sure to advertize on digital platforms including job posting websites, LinkedIn, search engine and social media advertising.

Be open to diversity

If the industry is only open to attracting men of a certain age from a certain background, the number of potential recruits reduces rapidly. The heating industry is one of the least diverse, particularly in terms of gender as only 0.4 per cent of Gas Safe registered engineers are female. Heating installers and employers not only need to be willing to hire a more diverse workforce, but they also need to be proactive in their efforts to attract candidates to ensure everyone feels welcome and supported in the industry.

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