While the launch date of the household version of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) still seems uncertain, the commercial arm has been running for some time now, providing a real boost to businesses that have the right skills to deliver heat-based environmental technologies.
Cathryn Hickey, Executive Director of the National Skills Academy for Environmental Technologies, explains why getting the right standards in place is crucial and the market opportunities available, particularly in the public sector.
The RHI has provided a boost to the business opportunities in environmental technologies, creating a pool of new work, particularly in the public sector, for building services engineering (BSE) companies with the right skills. Commercial mechanical and electrical (M&E) installers already undergo rigorous training but until recently, this has mainly focused on traditional BSE technologies.
Unlike the domestic arm of the RHI, engineers for non-domestic heating projects over 45kW do not require Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) accreditation but it is still vital that they undertake appropriate training. The reputation of these technologies, scope for growth and long term success relies on end-users having a good experience with them and therefore BSE workers have a big part to play in promoting and moving towards a low carbon Britain.
Opportunities in the public sector
The public sector has been a leader in the take-up of renewables with strict carbon reduction targets forcing its hand. To take advantage of these projects you must make sure your business is on a preferred supplier list and once registered you will be given the opportunity to tender for specific jobs.
Pre-Qualification Questionnaires (PQQs) are often compiled periodically, rather than when a specific tender or job comes up. They include set questions designed to ascertain whether a company can meet the requirements of the project holder. For a business to be eligible for most work in the public and private sector it must have passed the PQQ after which it will stay eligible for a set period. Even if you don’t win the work, compiling these documents is a useful process that will help clarify your aims, strengths and weaknesses.
When it comes to the actual process of tendering make sure you view the bid documents and assess whether you can match the requirements, in terms of skill, experience and other factors, such as diversity and environmental policies. You must also make sure you have enough staff to fulfil the brief without jeopardising existing workloads.
Once you’re happy that your business meets the tender’s criteria you can then compile the document. To complete a tender you need to carry out background research into the requirements of the job and purchaser, write the bid, plan the delivery method, cost the work and price the bid. In addition you need to identify partners where they are necessary, produce a professionally presented bid and most importantly deliver the bid.
Tendering is a competitive process and you need to get across that your business is the best for the job. It should be clear that you have the skills, capacity and resources to deliver the work, while highlighting any advantages that makes you more suited than another company; this could be price, location, experience, core values or environmental stance to name a few.
When it comes to jobs involving renewables or other low carbon technologies, suppliers may be asked to demonstrate their technical capacity in relation to the environment. Qualifications are sometimes also required, but only where environmental issues are directly related to the contract in question.
If you have trained with the National Skills Academy for Environmental Technologies this proves your ability to meet legislative requirements and acquire skills in the latest technologies and techniques. Most purchasers have a low carbon commitment and your link to the Skills Academy and its qualifications will offer them the assurance that you match their commitment. The Skills Academy is currently developing a register of trained installers/companies, scheduled for launch later in the year.
Those with existing competence in building services engineering can access Level 3 training via the Skills Academy, in a range of environmental technology courses, including solar thermal, heat pumps, solar photovoltaics(PV) and rainwater harvesting, with micro-combined heat and power (CHP), micro-wind, micro-hydro and biofuels (including biomass) available in the future.
A Level 3 qualification in understanding the principles and requirements of environmental technology systems is embedded within all of the awards, but can also be taken as a stand-alone unit. This qualification is significant as delivering renewables is not just about having the skills to fit the equipment; for many companies it is a completely new area and the course will help with the non-technical elements of a move towards environmental technologies necessary to educate the sales-team, managers or general decision makers.
By undertaking these awards through the National Skills Academy for Environmental Technologies, employers have the assurance that training is based on National Occupational Standards (NOS) and is designed with future legislation changes in mind, including current requirements for existing competent person schemes, including the Green Deal, and proposed changes to MCS.
In addition to training, the National Skills Academy provides other benefits to larger building services companies, such as its membership programme, which gives organisations a great way to show their commitment to the low carbon economy, plus a range of other benefits such as training vouchers, discounts on supporting material and access to exclusive products and services. In addition, the Skills Academy provides businesses with a unique opportunity to help shape, influence, and drive forward training in environmental technologies.
If you’re interested in membership, the Academy is looking for organisations with a passion for training and education, plus fresh ideas, enthusiasm and a vision that can inspire and motivate learning providers and other members.
Wealth of opportunity
At the start of the RHI the Government predicted the scheme would create 500,000 jobs by the end of the decade, stimulating £4.5 billion of capital investment and generating around 57TWH of renewable heat, much of which will come from the public sector. This landscape of opportunity has been the driver behind the National Skills Academy for Environmental Technologies.
Prior to the launch of the Skills Academy, installers ran the risk of attending courses that were not industry recognised and delivered insufficient levels of practical competence. Now, with a marketplace on the up, and relevant, quality training provision in a convenient location for most organisations, a sector that had been hit hard by the recession is open to a wealth of opportunities – both financially and in terms of assisting the UK meet its commitment to cut carbon.