Tackling the skills shortage for a brighter future

63dd6a98-4ea6-4afc-9f33-bfa0e529449e

Published: 05 October 2017


Malcolm Anson, President of the Building Controls Industry Association (BCIA), explains why investment in training is essential if we are to drive the HVAC and building controls industry forward.

The ongoing skills shortage is a well-known topic of conversation in our sector, as well as nationwide. To address this issue, a robust plan of action is essential with training high on the agenda.

Research conducted by Engineering UK found an additional 1.8 million engineers and technically qualified people are needed by 2025. The study also discovered that people are put off by a career in the industry due to not understanding the various job roles or the importance of the sector.
There is an urgent need for perceptions to change, and to increase recognition of the work that we do. We should be reinforcing the message that our industry has a substantial influence in reducing the UK’s carbon footprint and creating sustainable environments, now and for the future.

The government has made a strong commitment to zero carbon buildings and the EU requires member states to achieve “nearly zero energy” buildings from 2019.

Government targets
Furthermore, legislation requires a reduction of 9% on carbon emissions on commercial buildings as a collective, with the aim of an 80% reduction by 2050. Building controls are integral in meeting the building performance challenge and meeting the stringent government standards.

What’s more, an ongoing industry wide commitment to invest in training is required. Our own engineers, clients and other engineering disciplines need to fully appreciate building controls. The industry will benefit from skilled and knowledgeable professionals, who have the ability and confidence to install effective controls and systems. This will ensure that buildings achieve maximum performance as well as the ultimate objective for the end user - a return on their investment.

One of the ways in which this is possible, is to keep abreast of the latest technologies. Technicians must be able to strongly communicate and be able to problem solve – this is key. We must strive to make sure technicians are suitably skilled to help understand their client’s needs and advise them appropriately. With an ever-changing need for high performing buildings, the industry needs to continue to evolve alongside technology.

This is where training is so crucial. For example, the BCIA have their own suite of specialist training courses which are aimed at all ages. These courses offer many benefits to those transferring into the HVAC industry and for those already employed in the sector, wishing to further enhance their knowledge.

Following the recent budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond has confirmed a major investment for 16-19-year-old students to undertake technical training. New technical qualifications called T-levels will be introduced between 2018 and 2022, with the aim to upskill young people, as well as to simplify the process of vocational training in England for construction and engineering.

These new qualifications will be a welcome boost in raising the profile of the industry and will go a long way in helping to shape the future of the HVAC and building controls sector.

Next generation
By being proactive and engaging with the next generation of capable technicians and engineers, we can continue to move the industry forward in the right direction.

We need to be boosting our productivity by reaching out to the brightest and most promising talent in the sector and showing them that a long-term future in the industry is a rewarding and fulfilling one.

However, as well as enticing skilled young talent into our industry who will provide fresh thinking and innovative ideas and solutions, we also need to consider the needs of the industry today. What about the many skilled professionals who already exist – isn’t it time that we started to showcase their skills?

Whilst it is true that we need bright, new talent in the industry, we also need the industry stalwarts who can keep the industry running at peak capacity today. Those individuals could have learned on the job or have come from a different profession. Perhaps they trained as an electrician in the first instance and then like many others, have transferred smoothly into the building controls industry. It is people like this, who are just as important to our industry, if we are to plug the skills gap which seems to get ever wider.

Industry stalwarts
Gaining new skills is only one part of the story. Demonstrating proficiency is equally important, which is why the BCIA is proud to be working with organisations who can help members of our industry to prove their hard-earned credentials.

For example, the BCIA has worked alongside JIB to introduce a new Electrotechnical Certification Scheme (ECS) card for building controls professionals – something which is instantly recognisable and demonstrates the skills which have been achieved by members of our industry.

More importantly this allows members of our industry to wear their skills and training with pride – because whether we are young or old we should be proud of our achievements.

Bridging the skills gap will continue to be important. Continuous investment and commitment to training is the only way that we can ensure we increase our knowledge and expertise. By doing so, we can achieve more sustainable, energy efficient buildings which meet ambitious government targets in order to conquer the building performance challenge.

www.bcia.co.uk