David Blevings and Peter Lynch. Credit: Kelvin Boyes
OFTEC Ireland is calling for young people in Northern Ireland to consider an apprenticeship or vocational training in the plumbing and heating sector.
OFTEC’s drive to recruit more people into the heating industry follows a year of uncertainty for the under-25 age group, who according to a briefing paper produced by Ulster University Economists, have experienced the largest falls in employment during the pandemic. The age group have been hard-hit due to the majority working in the retail and hospitality sectors which have been heavily impacted during the crisis.
With entry-level jobs dealt a heavy blow, OFTEC Ireland have teamed up with Northern Regional College as part of their drive to encourage young people to consider a career in the plumbing and heating sector, where demand for services remain steady.
David Blevings, OFTEC Ireland Manager said: “Now is a really exciting time to get into the plumbing and heating industry in Northern Ireland.
"There’s a conscious effort towards decarbonisation targets, which means we’re seeing a range of innovative technologies and solutions to home heating. This generation of heating professionals will be working towards a carbon net zero future and that’s exciting and something to be proud of.
"It’s understandably an unsettling time for people who are starting to think about what they want from a career and have been dealt a poor hand in terms of jobs by the pandemic. We’re keen to shine a light on the plumbing and heating sector as it offers good career prospects in a variety of roles. Trusted and reliable OFTEC registered heating technicians are always in demand."
Peter Lynch, a Plumbing lecturer at the College, said there will always be a demand for skilled professionals.
"The pandemic has not affected the demand for skilled professionals. With the plumbing and heating industry facing a chronic skills shortage due to the age profile of those currently working in the sector, an apprenticeship can create great opportunities.
"Apprentices in Northern Ireland (aged 16-19) are paid a minimum of £4.30 per hour and it is an excellent way for young people to ‘earn as they learn’ valuable skills to increase their employability."
He continued: "It’s been my experience that those who pass through the College doors don’t regret it. We offer a high-quality training programme designed to meet OFTEC standards, resulting in apprentices and trainees who are prepared and confident to enter the workplace full time.
"I think the industry can often be perceived as being male dominant and that’s something we’re keen to address. It’s a rewarding career and we don’t want anyone to feel that it’s not an option for them.
"We continue to have inspiring success stories, such as Abigail Reilly, a plumbing apprentice who went on to win a gold medal at the annual Skillbuild NI competition. It would be fantastic to see a more diverse range of applicants this year."
Northern Regional College is an OFTEC approved training centre, so apprentices get hands on experience and access to the latest equipment. When they complete their apprenticeship, they will be offered free OFTEC registration for one year.
OFTEC registration is recognised by governments, manufacturers, distributors, and consumers as a commitment to excellence and demonstrates competence to potential customers. It has a host of benefits including ability to self-certify works, free technical advice, discounts on equipment and services, and listings in the OFTEC online database which consumers frequently consult.
Speaking about his own experiences of the apprenticeship, former student Peter Convery, said: “I went into a plumbing apprenticeship with a local firm straight out of leaving school.
"I’ve really enjoyed the path it’s set me on. I work throughout the week with one firm, and since gaining my OFTEC training qualification, I’ve picked up additional work on the evenings and weekends with my Dad’s home heating oil firm, Convery Oils, installing tanks and servicing boilers.
"To anyone unsure about the apprenticeship, I would just say that I have found it so worthwhile and it is a really rewarding industry to work in."
To celebrate Northern Ireland Apprenticeship Week (April 26 – 29), Northern Regional College is hosting an online event on Monday April 26 that will showcase all the work-based learning opportunities at the College. Register today to learn more and receive an email reminder and a direct link to join the event or go to www.nrc.ac.uk