Going green – what you really think

Going green – what you really think

The green arm of the building services engineering sector is much talked about, but how relevant is it to most installers? Is it really making a difference to their day job? Are they even taking any notice, and if they are, what technologies are most popular, and how is this knowledge being acquired?
Installer magazine teamed up with the National Skills Academy for Environmental Technologies (NSAET) to undertake a survey to find out what, if anything, is being understood when it comes to going green.
With a database of installers interested, or already involved in, delivering microgeneration technologies and services relating to the Green Deal, the National Skills Academy seemed a good place to start when trying to uncover what is getting through to installers in terms of promoting the uptake of related technologies. Anyone involved in championing the green arm of the building services engineering sector – such as training providers, manufacturers, government bodies and even trade magazines – needs to take stock of how these messages are transmitted and where the problems lie. The following answers show a snap shot of a keen but still confused sector.
The majority of installers are already delivering microgeneration technologies( 55% of those asked) –  33% came from a heating and ventilation background, 50% were electrotechnical, and 22% covering building fabric and/or water-based services. Most businesses are one man bands or very small companies with no more than five employees, the rest are made of only slightly bigger businesses (in the 6 – 30 employee category), and a few very large organisations at 100 employees plus.
Why go green?
From this survey, it seems like government messages are getting through, with the majority (66%) stating that incentives like the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and the Green Deal scheme were the driver behind their decision to go green. The next biggest factor was customer demand (44%), followed, encouragingly, by articles and adverts in the trade press and other media (22%). Competitors came in at just 16% with manufacturers and merchants taking the bottom spot – only 11% of recipients cited them.

Which training?
In the particular focus group, there has been a lot of training going on – much of it taken over the past six months, particularly in relation to the Green Deal. The most popular courses were Energy Efficiency (50%), followed by Green Deal Assessor (33%), and Insulation (27%). Results were split fairly evenly between Solar thermal hot water (22%), Solar PV (27%) and Air source heat pumps (27%), with Fenestration (16%), Ground source heat pumps (16%) and Rainwater harvesting (11%) coming in last.

Green Deal confusion
Despite a trend towards Green Deal-related courses, there was an almost 50/50 split in terms of who understood the competence requirements and who didn’t – demonstrating the continued confusion regarding what is required to offer services under the scheme. It’s not just that installers are confused as 55% of respondents felt that consumers weren’t switched on to renewable and energy efficient technologies.
Anecdotally, this was the main thing installers commented on, citing either their own or their customers’ lack of understanding. The National Skills Academy has been helping with this task by providing Green Deal related information on its website as well as printed guides and an online module, covering the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) and Green Deal, which can be used to educate end users as well as installers.
Training preferences
Recipients were asked about the types of training they, or their employees, engaged in. This threw up some interesting answers, which highlighted the different ways that people ‘up-skill’.
Just 22% undertook full time courses – an unsurprising figure given that many businesses can’t afford to have too much time spent away from day-to-day jobs and activities. Most (50%) trained part time, with 38% learning on the job and a very healthy 33% choosing online methods – something that’s a fairly new option in our sector. Only 5% mentioned apprenticeships, which is a potentially worrying trend away from this great way to support young people into a career.
Training quality
Despite an audience aware of the National Skills Academy, answers to this question showed that there is still uncertainty when it comes to choosing appropriate training – i.e. training that is recognised by relevant Competent Persons Schemes (CPS).
While 55% of recipients knew the training their business had undertaken was Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) (or equivalent) approved, 27% were unsure, and the remainder has chosen courses that weren’t aligned to a CPS.

This suggests that there is still work to do on the part of industry bodies and training providers when it comes to educating installers on the importance of doing the right training through reputable providers.
What’s clear from these results is that clarity is needed for both installers and end users – both in regards to of the Green Deal/renewable and energy efficient technologies in general and what’s required training-wise to take advantage from a business point of view. The National Skills Academy has listened and will endeavour to provide more, relevant information for installers and their customers.
Let’s hope that regulatory bodies and government can also help to make these schemes clearer. If not, the UK is in danger of not meeting its legally-binding CO2 reduction targets, end users will remain despondent about renewable and energy efficient measures, and the market opportunities for installers will be jeopardised.