UK facing huge shortfall in heat pump engineers

7th July 2022

The UK will have to train up to 6,000 new heat pump engineers annually over the next six years if it is to meet its environmental targets, research suggests.

Roughly 25 million oil and gas boilers must be replaced with low-carbon heating systems over the next three decades to deliver net-zero emissions.

However, a new report from the charity Nesta estimates that there are currently only 3,000 trained heat pump engineers in the country, suggesting that an annual increase of 4,000-6,000 is needed between now and 2028.

These workers will need to be recruited from among both qualified gas boiler engineers and people outside the industry.

The report also includes an analysis of engineer job adverts, finding that there are no financial incentives for gas boiler engineers to take on heat pump installation training, as wages for these jobs are broadly lower, and training can cost thousands of pounds.

It outlines how a £5,000 payment to 5,000 heating engineers per year would be six times cheaper than the annual £150m cost of the government’s current Boiler Upgrade Scheme, and could be far more effective in meeting installation targets than subsidising homeowners to buy heat pumps.

“A shortage of trained heat pump engineers could put a spanner in the works of the government’s net-zero target,” said Codrina Cretu, senior analyst of Nesta's Sustainable Future mission.

“We will need thousands more heat pump engineers trained every year to make real progress in providing low-carbon alternatives to gas boilers and meet increasing demand for qualified installers, but this won’t happen while there is a risk of engineers spending more on training than they will make from it.

“Governments in the UK should look at trialling cash incentives to get more people and companies training heat pump engineers, as well establishing direct routes to training via low-carbon heating apprenticeships and college courses.”

Meanwhile, a survey by heating specialists Baxi has found that 39% of heating installers would be more likely to install heat pumps if they received help with training costs.

The findings, published this week, also show that 56% of installers believe that customer demand needs to be addressed, and that 38% are concerned about lack of government support for the market.

Karen Boswell, managing director of Baxi UK & Ireland, said: “Installers will play an important role as we decarbonise the nation’s heating and it will be vital that the government and industry support them with the right information, incentives and training.

“They will need to be advocates for low carbon sources of heat and recommend to the nation’s homeowners that they should make the leap to a heat pump.

“To achieve this, we will need to address their concerns, support them with training, and explain more clearly the financial and non-financial benefits of these appliances.”

Image credit: iStock


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