Energy efficiency, zero emissions and low carbon heating systems, microgeneration and heat networks - skills requirements: consultation analysis

Independent analysis of responses to the consultation on Scottish skills requirements for energy efficiency, zero emissions and low carbon heating systems, microgeneration and heat networks for homes. This consultation ran from 5 February 2021 to 30 April 2021.

Executive Summary


1. This Executive Summary presents some of the main themes arising from analysis of responses to the Consultation on Scottish skills requirements for energy efficiency, zero emissions and low carbon heating systems, microgeneration and heat networks for homes.

2. The consultation was published alongside the consultation on the draft Heat in Buildings Strategy, which sets out the Scottish Government's vision for decarbonising heat and reducing energy demand across all buildings in Scotland. The Strategy also sets out the scale of the investment opportunity and supporting green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. This can only be achieved if there is a robust supply chain in place with the necessary skills to deliver on the vision.

3. This consultation sought views on the Scottish Government's proposals for energy efficiency, zero emissions and low carbon heating systems, microgeneration and heat network skills requirements. While the primary focus was on retrofit work for homes, some of these skill requirements will also be relevant for new-build housing, and in certain circumstances non-domestic buildings. These requirements relate to retrofit installers, energy assessors, designers, advisors, evaluators and retrofit coordinators. Once implemented, these skills requirements will create a best practice standard for the sector, and will be a minimum requirement for Scottish Government-supported programmes.

4. The main engagement activities undertaken were:

  • An online consultation – a total of 52 responses were received, with the vast majority from organisations. Membership and professional bodies comprised around half of all organisation responses. The remainder were from the public, private or third sector.
  • Two supplementary webinars, one of which had a geographic focus and considered the impact of the proposed skills requirements on Scottish island supply chains. A total of 144 individuals registered for the webinars, of which 91 attended representing an actual attendance rate of almost two-thirds.

Installer Skills Requirements

Q1a: Do you agree with our proposal to integrate the installer skills matrix into the Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 2030 and Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) installer standards?

5. The vast majority of consultation respondents agreed that the installer skills matrix should be integrated into the PAS 2030 and MCS installer standards (88%).

Q1b: Do you agree with our recommendation that manufacturer training should be in addition to, not instead of, these skills requirements?

6. The vast majority of consultation respondents agreed that manufacturer training should be in addition to, not instead of, the proposed skills requirements (86%).

Q1c: If you disagree with these proposals, please let us know why.

7. Ten respondents explicitly "disagreed" with the proposals. In addition, a further 13 respondents also answered this question despite agreeing with the previous questions. These respondents typically elaborated on their support for the proposals or caveated their positive response in some way.

8. A common theme related to the role of PAS 2030. A couple of respondents, disagreed with the fundamental role of PAS 2030 within the proposals, and this fed into a wider call for further consultation. It was considered important to develop a better understanding of the impacts of the proposals at a UK-wide level.

9. Further, it was considered important to ensure a co-ordinated and consistent approach to skills requirements across the UK. It was noted that this could be a more effective way to implement any changes to the skills requirements – as well as provide greater clarity to installers, including those who provide services in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK.

10. Concerns were also raised about the potential cost and administrative burden of the proposal to integrate the installer skills matrix into the MCS installer standards (e.g. in particular for micro businesses). Wider points raised were that manufacturer-led training should not be valued less than other training provision, and concerns around the potential for duplication of training.

Q2: What are your views on the timing for integrating the installer skills matrix into the PAS 2030 and MCS installer standards? What do you think would be a reasonable timescale for the making the skills matrix mandatory in the standards?

11. The general consensus was that the proposal to integrate the skills matrix within PAS 2030 and MCS by the end of 2021, as guidance in the first instance for achieving competency within the standards, was reasonable and sensible. There was broad recognition of the need to facilitate the rapid scale up and deployment of zero-emissions heating systems to support the achievement of interim and longer-term climate change targets.

12. The Scottish Government proposal is that the skills matrix then becomes mandatory "within a reasonable timescale" to allow installers to meet these requirements. A transition period was broadly welcomed.

13. While a range of views were provided, the general consensus was that the skills matrix should be made mandatory as soon as practically possible or within 12 months. In thinking about timescales, it was considered important that smaller companies and island supply chains were not disproportionally impacted.

14. In order for the proposals to become a reality, the availability of training courses was also considered crucial in to help build the required capacity within supply chains.

Q3: What are your views on how installers can meet these skills requirements, in particular the Recognised Prior Learning (RPL) route?

15. There was strong agreement that the qualifications presented in the skills matrix could be achieved by installers in different ways, including through the RPL route. RPL is considered a valuable and important route to help meet the skills requirements. For example, there is considered to be an opportunity to train up heating installers already operating within the market but not installing heat pumps.

16. A common theme was the importance of ensuring that the necessary standards and competencies outlined in the skills matrix were met whatever the route taken, and assessed independently. It would also be important for the RPL route to be integrated with, and mapped against, the skills matrix. There was also a request that the RPL route should not be overly cumbersome or burdensome.

17. There were various comments that related to the quality of training, the assessment and verification process, and/or availability of training courses. Among other things, this included: the importance of industry recognised training; reference to work underway between the Heat Pump Association and industry to support and simplify the process to becoming a competent heat pump installer; and that the skills requirements would need to be set within an islands context.

PAS 2035 Requirements for Other Roles

Q4: What are your views on the competency requirements for the retrofit coordinator, advisor, assessor, designer and evaluator roles?

18. Overall, competency requirements were viewed as essential.

19. A variety of points were raised that related to a number of the roles specified in the Consultation Document – these spanned supply-side and wider issues, and are covered in the main body of the report.

20. Common feedback on the Retrofit Coordinator was that this role would be key – and would require broad knowledge and practical experience in working in refurbishment, renovation, whole house retrofit, and new build construction. It was noted that the approved course for the Retrofit Coordinator was currently only available from one education provider in England, and that this posed a number of challenges within a Scottish context.

21. A common theme was that it was important to put in place processes to ensure high quality installations. Here, the role of Retrofit Assessor was welcomed, as it would play a key role in conducting assessments and providing the Retrofit Coordinator with the data required to inform decision-making.

22. It was considered reasonable and necessary that special consideration was given to the competency requirements required for the assessment of retrofit protected buildings. There was also reference made to the potential use of competent person registration/schemes.

23. Feedback also highlighted the specialist knowledge that a Retrofit Designer would require, and that the role would be critical to the delivery of high-quality installations and ensuring that unintended consequences are minimised.

24. The Retrofit Evaluator was also considered an important role in the retrofit process, For example, it was noted that they would be able to assess the effectiveness of a project and gather numerical, quantifiable data to validate the chosen approach, and would require to understand why a project had not been delivered as expected.

25. Retrofit Advisors were considered important given the role they would play in the delivery of independent advice to homeowners. Given the relatively low level of awareness among the general public of low carbon technologies, it was considered vital that Retrofit Advisors were able to provide efficacious advice on products and techniques to help build customer confidence.

Heat Networks

Q5: What are your views on our plans for developing heat network skills? For example, are there any gaps in heat network skills that we haven't identified?

26. There was broad support expressed for the proposals covering heat network skills in Scotland. Further, there was also wide endorsement of the use of the Energy Savings Trust's 2020 report to help guide and inform plans for developing heat network skills.

27. There was also broad agreement with the skills gaps identified in the Consultation Document (e.g. project management of heat networks, delivery and operation, heat network design). To help identify other skills gaps, it was considered important to consider factors such as:

  • A review of the wider evidence base and to take stock of ongoing discussions elsewhere (e.g. BEIS Heat Network Skills Review, 2020).
  • The role of local government in delivering District Heating Schemes.
  • Understanding the next generation of Heat Networks.

28. A common theme that emerged related to the six colleges and universities identified in that report with an interest in, and the potential to, expand their curriculum content on heat networks to begin to address the identified skills gaps. This was considered a useful starting point. However, it was considered crucial that additional training providers were identified, and in particular to support delivery outwith the central belt.

General Questions

Q6a: What impact do you think our skills requirements will have on the energy efficiency, microgeneration and heat networks sector in remote rural and island communities?

29. The majority of respondents who provided a response identified a range of factors or challenges which could have a negative impact on remote rural and Island communities if not addressed going forward. There was some optimism, however, that the issues could be overcome if mitigating action was taken.

30. A common theme was that the geography and remoteness of rural and island communities' poses challenges in terms of accessing training, and that this acts as a barrier to upskilling within the sector.

31. A wider factor was around capacity within the supply chain and skills shortages. On the whole, feedback was that this could be more pronounced in remote, rural and island communities (e.g. the sector in these communities is largely dominated by micro businesses and SMEs).

32. Another concern raised was that the proposals could place a disproportionate financial burden on remote rural and island communities. The main point raised related to the higher costs associated with both attending training and with installation.

Q6b: What impact do you think our skills requirements will have on the energy efficiency, microgeneration and heat networks sector in Scotland more generally?

33. Far more respondents reported that the skills requirements would have a positive (rather than negative) impact on the energy efficiency, microgeneration and heat networks sector in Scotland more generally.

34. A common theme was that the proposed skills requirements could improve and enhance professionalism and standards within the sector in Scotland. A related theme was that the skills requirements could help support the development and promotion of a clear skills pathway for the existing and future workforce to achieve the required skills and qualifications. Further, it was noted that the skills requirements present a real and significant opportunity for growth of the heat networks sector in Scotland.

35. The main reasons for a minority of respondents expressing a view that the skills requirements could have a negative (or mixed) impact on the sector were largely due to concerns about increased costs, followed by capacity concerns.

Q7: What impact do you think our skills requirements will have on competition including training provision, quality, availability or price of any goods or services in a market?

36. It was most commonly reported that the skills requirements could result in increased prices/costs and an increased demand for training.

37. There was feedback regarding a lack of competition in specific sectors and areas, particularly in remote, rural and island communities. As the proposals set out minimum skills requirements, this could result in an increased demand for training. It was noted that a combination of these factors could create a "monopoly in the market" with some concerned that there would be "risk of a premium" being placed on goods and services. Further, any increased costs for employers to meet the skills requirements were likely to be passed onto consumers and homeowners at the very least in the short term.

38. Given that the skills requirements would set a minimum standard for qualifications within the sector, feedback strongly suggested that it would improve the quality of goods and services by, for example, upskilling the workforce to improve the quality and consistency of installations. Training providers would, however, require support to adapt and develop new provision in line with the skills requirements, and to be able to meet increased demand.

39. Concerns were raised about the impact of the skills requirements on smaller companies who might face challenges in terms of ability to pay for required upskilling and training.

Q8: What suggestions do you have for how digital technology could be used effectively to meet our skills requirements?

40. The general consensus was that digital technology was one of a number of useful tools that could be used to help meet the Scottish Government's skills requirements. There was broad acknowledgement that digital technology would be an important part of the overall mix of how training is delivered. A wide range of benefits of online/remote learning were emphasised (e.g. cost effective).

41. There was also considered value in the use of digital technology to specifically reach and support the delivery of skills training in rural, remote and island communities.

42. The delivery of "blended" or "hybrid" learning opportunities and approaches, including the availability of hands-on training to develop practical skills, was deemed essential to support workforce development in the sector.

Q9: Are there any areas of skills we have not covered in this consultation that you think we should consider?

43. Developing and promoting a clear career pathway as a means of attracting new talent into the sector was highlighted as critical – attracting and training more young people, and for the sector to be seen as an attractive career option.

44. A common theme was that a mix of skills would be required by the current and future workforce. These were commonly framed as technical, traditional, professional and soft skills - all were considered crucial and should be covered appropriately in the skills matrix.

45. There was also reference to ensuring that the skills matrix takes cognisance of, and aligns closely with, wider skills strategies and plans, as well as with recent/planned developments in training provision.

46. Similar to other consultation questions, there was specific reference to the importance of ensuring that people living and working in remote and rural areas have the right skill sets required by industry and have access to opportunities for training and development.

Q10: What support you think would help the sector achieve these skills requirements?

47. A common theme that emerged was that a continued package of support for energy efficiency across the supply chain would be vitally important. There was strong support for industry-wide, longer-term investment in skills to help the sector achieve the proposed skills requirements (e.g. grant and bursary support, upskilling and reskilling support, support to stimulate demand for workforce development, industry-facing awareness raising campaigns).

48. There was very strong support for a plan of action to be developed to help inspire and attract young people into the sector, including the provision of increased apprenticeship opportunities.

49. A variety of points were raised around the provision of training. For example, that the supply side (i.e. training providers) would require support to ensure that they are in a position to meet demand; that the delivery of training could take many different forms; and as reported elsewhere, that the specific needs of rural and remote geographies would need to be considered.

50. In addition to financial support and incentives, there was strong feedback that the Scottish Government would have an important role to play in other ways to help ensure the sector can achieve the proposed skill requirements. For example, by ensuring a joined-up, coherent and collaborative approach between all stakeholders and partners, and identifying and guaranteeing the future pipeline of "green" work in order to allow businesses to be confident in any skills investment they make.



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