As part of National Apprenticeship Week (5th – 9th March) young people in Northern Ireland are being urged to consider a career in the heating industry.
OFTEC, the leading trade body for the domestic oil heating and cooking industry across Ireland, is urging young people to consider an apprenticeship or vocational training as the first step to career success.
The call is part of OFTEC’s drive to recruit more young people to careers in the heating industry as the organisation is concerned that Northern Ireland’s economic recovery may be in jeopardy due to a chronic skills shortage which is particularly apparent in the trade sector.
With the number of apprenticeships in the heating sector falling last year, despite increased government support, more must be done to encourage new technicians into the industry and help plug the severe skills gap, warns OFTEC. Only 0.2% of all apprenticeships nationally taken up were in the heating sector, yet Northern Ireland’s employment outlook is at its highest level since 2007, with the plus-8 per cent measure above the UK average with ‘tradies’ jobs showing the biggest increase.
There is a growing demand for skilled tradespeople in Northern Ireland as almost half of construction SMEs are struggling to recruit adequate numbers of ‘tradies’, yet fewer people are taking vocational courses or apprenticeships in skilled trades to bridge the growing gap.
Figures released this week by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) NI have revealed apprentices will go on to earn thousands of pounds more, every year, than many of their university-educated counterparts.
Fuelled by the high costs associated with going to university and the rising cost of living, apprenticeships are increasingly being seen as a highly credible further education option and route into future employment, with more and more students and parents recognising the benefits of hands-on training and experience.
David Blevings, OFTEC Ireland Manager said: “The heating sector is a fantastic industry to be involved with, offering good career prospects in a variety of different roles. No single solution can meet society’s future energy needs. The solution will come from a family of diverse energy technologies and that will include oil and other fossil fuels. Apprenticeships provide real hands on experience and they are a great starting place for anyone looking to become a heating technician.
“Many colleges offer plumbing and heating courses and many incorporate the OFTEC syllabus as part of the course. The OFTEC accreditation is recognised by consumers as a badge of professionalism and competence.
“Building standards and technology are always advancing but people will always need a method of heating and hot water. There is no shortage of work out there, and with only 10% are under 30, there is an urgent need to bring new blood into the industry. Trusted and reliable OFTEC registered heating technicians are always in demand.”