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CIPHE manifesto calls for “fit for purpose” heating training

Organisation sets out major policy and funding priorities that it will seek to press government on to ensure heating specialists can address inefficient and unsafe buildings challenge

The introduction of statutory licences for plumbing and heating specialists is among the priorities outlined by the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) in its new manifesto document that outlines major industry challenges for the new government.

A “fit for purpose” skills programme to ensure a sufficiently skilled workforce can realise zero carbon heating, as well as stricter penalties for failing to comply with standards are also highlighted as vital areas to be addressed with regard to how buildings are designed and maintained.

CIPHE chief executive Kevin Wellman said the new government and parliament had a duty to ensure the engineering sector was prepared and capable of supporting real transformation in UK homes and buildings, especially to realise legal commitment to eliminate or offset UK carbon emissions by 2050.

He said, “The plumbing and heating industry underpins many key areas of government policy, such as health, housing, energy and the environment. Education policy — especially in vocational subjects — will have a huge impact on the government’s Industrial Strategy and our economic success going forwards.”

“There are many challenges ahead and it is clear that we are entering a period of significant change. The UK is going to need skilled, qualified and competent engineers in all disciplines, to achieve its domestic and international aims.”

CIPHE said in the manifesto document that enforcement and competence were “big problems” in the heating and hot water sector. The organisation argued that a form of compliance health check for boilers and other crucial systems offered a solution to ensure more efficient, safer buildings. Such a change would also be important to reverse what the organisation said was current lack of sufficient industry skills.

The organisation noted in the manifesto document that it did keep lists of qualified installers working in the fields of plumbing, heating and renewable-focused projects.

The document added, “However, the lack of publicised enforcement of water, building and Gas Safety Regulations is exacerbated by the fact that, with the exception of gas installers, anyone can establish a plumbing and heating business regardless of relevant and supporting qualifications.”

“This has allowed a small, but undesirable rogue operator culture to arise, which puts public safety, health and welfare in jeopardy.”

Introduction of mandatory continuing professional development (CPD) for all specialists, one that would require a minimum of at least 30 hours of annual training to be undertaken a year, was another recommendation demanded from government in the manifesto.

Attempts to overhaul industry training was also seen to require a new approach to vocational education, the manifesto document said.

CIPHE added, “The UK plumbing and heating industry is largely unregulated, meaning anyone can give themselves the title of ‘plumber’ regardless of qualifications, knowledge and competence.

The group’s manifesto therefore backed additional reforms to the Apprenticeship Levy, particularly in terms of providing greater practical and financial support for sole traders and SMEs so they can better take-on and up-skill apprentices in heating and plumbing.

According to the CIPHE document, apprenticeship starts were said to have fallen by a fifth from the level recorded when the Apprenticeship Levy scheme was introduced in 2017. A further concern was raised by CIPHE that funding available for trailblazer plumbing and heating apprenticeships was also imbalanced compared to other sectors.

The organisation said, “While CIPHE welcomes moves to allow non-levy paying businesses – such as SMEs/micro SMEs) to access the apprenticeship service from 2020, financial support for SMEs still does not go far enough. At a time when gas as a heat source is being replaced, gas apprenticeships funding is disproportionate.”

The government is also being urged via the manifesto to prioritise public health campaigns to improve awareness on issues such as scalding and legionella. Fresh policies were also required to ensure that UK properties with the lowest energy efficiency ratings are retrofitted in line with decarbonisation aims.

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