Plumbing and heating companies in Scotland receive funding from the government to cover the college fees of apprentices and a portion of their wages.
This is essential to ensure the future generation of plumbers and heating engineers receive the training they need to become qualified.
But funding is now at risk, and the Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers' Federation (SNIPEF) is raising the alarm.
Many companies are already struggling to find heating and plumbing engineers with the right skills, and this could make the situation worse.
So, what could a lack of funding lead to? Let’s take a closer look.
Public safety could be put at risk by changes to the funding of plumbing apprenticeships in Scotland. This is the stark message from SNIPEF.
SNIPEF is the main trade association in Scotland and Northern Ireland for plumbing and heating businesses.
As reported here, it has warned MSPs about the defunding of plumbing apprenticeships that it is putting public safety at risk and is harming the Net Zero ambitions of Holyrood.
It made the warning following a meeting with MSPs in February, where representatives of SNIPEF raised their concerns.
Risk of No Further Funding
The warning was made in response to an announcement from Skills Development Scotland (SDS) that no further funding would be provided for apprenticeships.
The risk is that this has an impact on the skills development prospects for the industry, both now and in the future.
SNIPEF warned that cutting funding would affect growth of the plumbing and heat engineering industry, and that it would affect the ability to hit Net Zero targets of the government.
But it went further, warning that it could lead to redundancies for existing apprentices and have a negative impact on levelling-up and affect opportunities in rural communities.
Stephanie Lowe is the Acting Chief Executive of SNIPEF. She said that there were currently 44 apprentices who have started their apprenticeships but are unable to secure funding. She also referenced the “six years of funding stagnation” at the present time.
This is a barrier to entering the industry, and will no doubt have a damaging effect on the industry’s ability to provide the service the nation requires.
There were other concerns that SNIPEF highlighted regarding the funding cuts.
For example, there is a worry it could lead to unqualified heating engineers and plumbers taking on work that they are not able to do because of a short supply of professionals. As a result, this could put public safety at risk.
Colleges could also be led to close unfunded programmes, leading to a loss of courses. This would lead to difficulties in training up the professionals required in the industry across Scotland.
Net Zero Goals at Risk
It could also put the government’s Net Zero goals at risk because there would not be enough people with the required skills.
There are emission targets in place that are legally binding, and time is running out. Scotland needs enough people who are qualified to meet the demands.
The government should work in partnership with the industry to make sure sufficient co-funding is provided. This will help to train professionals, who will be the people installing new technologies and maintaining them.
For now, we’ll have to wait and see how badly funding is affected, but it could have a serious impact on the industry in the years ahead.