The government’s spending review drastically cut budgets for public sector projects and, with less work available in the domestic sector, there’s no doubt those with a diverse set of skills will weather the storm better than those without.
The lines between the different trades have become steadily more blurred over the past few years. In the domestic sector in particular, the introduction of Part P of the Building Regulations in 2005 has led to an increasing number of plumbing and heating contractors registering with a competent person self-certification scheme in order to carry out certain types of electrical work.
Along with the economic need to diversify, there is also growing demand among consumers for microgeneration-based technologies which, I believe, will be a major driver encouraging contractors of all disciplines to diversify their skills base.
Government figures suggest that up to seven million homes could have some form of microgeneration technology installed by 2020.
Installation involves a range of skills that are not necessarily aligned to one particular trade, meaning that electrical contractors, plumbers and HVAC engineers are all able to take advantage of this new and potentially lucrative area. Many of the principles and practices required for installing technologies such as solar photovoltaic, wind turbines and heat pumps will already be familiar to many H&V contractors.
Forward-thinking contractors are already enrolling on Microgeneration Certification Scheme courses that, once they are qualified, will allow them to give homeowners access to the feed-in-tariffs (FiTs), which came into effect earlier this year.
Undertaking training will equip contractors with the knowledge to work in a green economy and on renewable energy projects, where their existing knowledge would be an advantage.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change is carrying out a review of microgeneration policy in the UK and will publish a new strategy. Skills and training are key areas being looked at and there is a need for stable government policy in this area. Specifically, a long-term FiT structure and a clear, predictable strategy towards low or zero-carbon homes and buildings are both crucial drivers.
The launch of the proposed Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, designed to mirror the existing FiT scheme for heat-generating technologies, is scheduled to come into effect next April and will also encourage more contractors to become skilled in microgeneration.
There’s no doubt that the trades are crossing over and the factors outlined above will all contribute to the speed with which this will happen. Embracing this change will mean that many more contractors are able to come out of this recession with enhanced skills and better businesses which will, in turn, contribute to a greener future for us all.
Emma McCarthy is chief operating officer at NICEIC