‘Why we need to address the heating industry’s ageing workforce’

David Holmes, Founder of Boiler Guide, explains why and how we need to tackle the heating industry's ageing workforce

worker set up central gas heating boiler at home

During a global pandemic, the importance of the role carried out by those working in the heating industry remains vital. In response to COVID-19, heating engineers have been given ‘key worker’ status, allowing them to continue working.

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Yet, there’s an underlying problem, one that would shake the heating industry if a pandemic the sheer size of Coronavirus was to hit in 10 to 15 years time: an ageing workforce.

Over the course of the next decade, it’s thought that more than half of heating engineers certified by the Gas Safe Register will retire. This comes from the Gas Safe Register’s ‘Decade in Review’, published in 2017, which states that the median age of their 140,000 strong installer base is 55 – the same average age heating engineers begin to leave or retire from the industry.

With retirement looming for the majority of heating engineers, the industry risks losing years of valuable industry experience almost over night. And according to research from the Centre for Ageing Better, employers aren’t prepared.

From a survey of 500 employers, the Centre for Ageing Better found that only 1 in 5 employers have strategic discussions around an ageing workforce and 24% are unprepared.

So, what can employers do to maintain a well-staffed workforce with retirement around the corner for many heating engineers?

While the midst of a global pandemic might not seem like the best time to be recruiting there’s plenty you can be doing to ramp up your recruitment efforts at this time.

Clear path for progression

To be successful in hiring younger workers, you need to have a clear path for them to progress upwards through the company. Putting time into deciding on this now so that you can get it all out on the table to candidates when the time comes will help to give your company the edge.

Emphasise benefits

As well as opportunities to progress through the business, additional benefits such as a salary increase, extra holiday days or benefits after a period of time could all incentivise candidates to work for your company and stay for the long term.

Make use of digital advertising

With the nation in lockdown, more time is being spent scrolling through social media. Put this to your advantage by posting career opportunities online. Linkedin, a professional network site, could prove particularly fruitful as it’s possible to promote a post to ensure it’s seen by people with the necessary skills.

If this is all new to you then social media platforms offer learning resources to help get you started.

Hire a recruitment agency

Rather than going off in search of employees yourself, hiring a recruitment agency will save you from having to invest so much time into the process. Many recruiters will only charge a commission if you hire someone so it’s in their interest to only recommend the very best candidates.

By taking all of the above onboard, you’ll be well placed to really push on with recruitment when steps are taken to ease the nationwide lockdown.

Referral Incentives

The best place to start could well be by communicating with your current employees. Make use of the connections they’ve made through the years by introducing referral incentives. And these incentives don’t necessarily have to be financial, you could be creative with rewards or extra holiday days.

Diversify your workforce

Not only is an ageing workforce a growing concern for the heating industry, so is the gender gap. Only 0.4% of Gas Safe Registered engineers are women which shows just how much potential there is to attract more women into the industry.

Speaking about the strides that can be made in growing the number of female heating engineers, OFTEC Training Manager, David Knipe, said:

“At a time when the heating industry is facing severe skills shortages, we should be tapping into the potential the female recruitment market offers. This will also help to ensure the heating industry of tomorrow is more representative of our increasingly diverse society and remains responsive to consumers’ needs.”

Introduce a mentoring culture

With thousands of heating engineers due to retire in the next 10 years, a lifetime’s worth of experience is set to be lost. Hold onto all of this experience by introducing a mentoring culture, with the experienced workers taking the apprentices and younger engineers under their wing.

The heating industry might be set to lose years of valuable experience over the next decade but it’s not all bad news. While there’s no doubt the industry is weighted towards older engineers, the Gas Safe Register’s database shows that more people are joining than leaving.

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These are signs that there’s clearly an appetite to join the industry and by taking the steps in this article, your company can stand out to potential employees.