BESA launches online heat pump training

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) is launching what it said was the industry’s only online training course for heat pump installation to help fill a skills gap highlighted by the government’s flagship Green Homes Grant voucher scheme.

BESA is collaborating with the Home Builders Federation (HBF) and heating equipment manufacturer Worcester Bosch to develop the programme. It will be delivered through BESA’s online training Academy and goes live in March.

To kickstart the scheme, 700 free places are being offered to qualified plumbing and heating engineers looking to upskill and carry out heat pump work. They should sign up soon as demand is expected to be high and there will be a charge for the training from May.

This initiative is also receiving funding from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), as government officials recognise the need to accelerate specialised training to support the grant scheme, which has been extended until March 2022, and to ensure air source heat pumps are correctly installed and maintained.

Heat pumps were highlighted by the Prime Minister as a key technology for delivering many of the government’s decarbonisation goals and he tasked the industry with installing 600,000 a year by 2028. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) also set a target of one million a year by the 2030’s, with an eventual total of 19 million to help achieve the government’s net zero targets.

Graeme Fox, head of technical at BESA, said the heat pump market represented “an absolutely colossal opportunity” for suitably qualified engineers. However, he warned that the industry would have “to rapidly scale up capacity and needed considerable investment in additional skills to deliver all these hugely ambitious targets.”

Industry estimates for this year put the current number of heat pump installations at around 71,000. Therefore, ramping that up to achieve the government’s ultimate target would require a huge leap in headcount for the industry. The BESA Academy training scheme is a direct response to that challenge, according to the Association’s director of training and skills, Helen Yeulet.

Helen said: “One of the biggest barriers to increased adoption of heat pump technology and the take up of the green home grants is the lack of suitably qualified installers. It is also very important that installations meet a high technical standard and that engineers fully understand the technology, so consumers get the full energy and carbon saving benefits.”

John Slaughter, director of external affairs at HBF, added: “With the next steps towards implementing the Future Homes Standard recently announced, training installers for the technologies needed is important to ensure the workforce is prepared for the changes that are coming.”