Opportunities in Sustainable Energy

With rising energy costs and more awareness of the impact on the environment of carbon-based fuels, the focus has never been greater on doing your bit to protect the environment. There are great opportunities in sustainable energy and related markets for those with the right skills levels.

The UK Government’s Green Deal initiative, which launched in early 2013, aims to encourage consumers and businesses to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings at no upfront cost. Other initiatives such as the Renewable Heat Incentive and Feed-In Tariffs are designed to increase the take-up of energy efficiency technologies.

Substantial research into the UK renewable energy sector has taken place across the country, highlighting the jobs and green skills that the workforce of the future will need. Find out more about this here.

What does this mean for you?

Whilst there may be different reasons for going green, it is clear that competent tradespeople will be needed to design and install the technologies. If you’re reading this page, the chances are that you are interested in getting started in designing or installing renewable energy technologies.

The first thing you need to do is identify your starting point.

If you are interested in learning about the installation of energy efficiency measures within building services engineering (BSE) careers, including solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, solar thermal hot water, heat pumps, biomass or combined heat and power (CHP), read on.

To find out more about construction careers linked to the Green Deal initiative please visit the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) webpage.

New to the sector?

If you’re just leaving school and thinking about your future career, you may be interested to know about opportunities available in environmental technologies. Whilst certain technologies are usually installed by qualified trades people, who have years of experience complemented by continuing professional development (CPD), ‘green’ apprenticeships are available too. Some companies have a number of trades people with different skill sets and are looking to take on apprentices with a focus on environmental technologies. Why not approach local electricians, plumbers, heating engineers, or air conditioning engineers to explain what you could bring to their organisation?

Further information about ‘green apprenticeships’, career pathways in the domestic plumbing and heating apprenticeship frameworks and what you’ll need to achieve to get qualified can be found in our apprenticeship frameworks section.

At the moment Scotland and Northern Ireland don’t have specific environmental apprenticeships in this sector, but apprenticeships in our sector are likely to include work in the ‘green’ arena.

Already qualified in your trade but want to develop your skills further?

Whether you’re an electrician, heating engineer, plumber or air conditioning and refrigeration installer, there are opportunities for you in the growing green economy.

With numerous Government incentives available, from Feed In Tariffs (FITs) to the Renewable Heat Incentive and the Green Deal, your customers need your services.

Some of these incentives will require installers to be specifically qualified to a certain standard often by completing qualifications to enhance their skills. Details of the minimum technical competencies that you will need to meet, overseen by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS), can be found here.

Electricians – tasks carried out (possibly with additional training) may include the design, installation and commissioning of the following:
• Whole building energy efficiency
• Intelligent buildings – where the fabric of the building and its service components are controlled and linked by computers
• Maximisation of day lighting and use of lighting controls and low energy fittings
• Solar Photovoltaic (PV) panels which convert energy from the sun into electricity
• Energy efficient ventilation
• Micro wind turbines

Plumbers – tasks carried out (possibly with additional training) may include the design, installation and commissioning of the following:

• Whole building energy efficiency including water efficient taps, showers etc
• Rainwater and greywater harvesting – including water butts and the avoidance of open/grated gullies
• Solar thermal heating systems

Domestic Heating Engineers – tasks carried out (possibly with additional training) may include the design, installation and commissioning of the following:

  • Whole building energy efficiency
  • Micro combined heat and power (mCHP) systems
  • Biomass such as woodchip boilers
  • Heat pump systems
  • Solar thermal heating systems

Heating and Ventilating Engineers – tasks carried out (possibly with additional training) may include the design, installation and commissioning of the following:

  • Whole building energy efficiency
  • Micro combined heat and power (mCHP) systems
  • Airtightness – where a house is both insulated and ventilated efficiently (such as PassivHaus/zero carbon homes)
  • Energy efficient ventilation
  • Biomass such as woodchip boilers
  • Solar thermal heating systems
  • Heat pump systems

Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Engineers – tasks carried out (possibly with additional training) may include the design, installation and commissioning of the following:

  • Whole building energy efficiency
  • Airtightness – where a house is both insulated and ventilated efficiently (such as PassivHaus/zero carbon homes)
  • Energy efficient ventilation
  • Ground source and air source heat pumps

Pathways to progress your career in ‘green’ skills

The sector as a whole considers most jobs performed within the green skills environment to be an extension of the skills set held by the recognised job holders described above. Look at our careers map to see where you are currently and work out where you would like to progress to.

A list of qualifications recognised as meeting the upskill requirements to perform the green skills roles above to the satisfaction of regulatory bodies such as MCS can be found here.

Further explanation of the various environmental technologies can be found here.

Apprenticeships

Details of the range and types of apprenticeships across our sector in which you can have an impact on the environment can be found in our careers resources, showing the breadth and depth of careers available.

Whilst the vast majority of workers within the SummitSkills footprint carry out manual work on a daily basis, some enter the workforce directly from school before continuing their education and taking on roles in the wider working environment. Our Sector Footprint guide can be downloaded here.

Good examples of possible career progression can be found at SummitSkills. Our own members of staff followed these pathways:

  • left school to start as an Apprentice in a trade
  • qualified and worked as trades people
  • ran their own business
  • qualified and taught as lecturers in Further Education Colleges
  • became Development Managers creating National new qualifications and Apprenticeships for the next generations
  • qualified as Project Managers to work on National projects across the sector with Governments, Employers and Training Providers.

CITB

Further information regarding possible green skills career progression pathways within the construction sector (including external wall insulation installer) can be found here.

Building Futures Group

Further information regarding possible green skills career progression pathways within the Building Futures Group sector (including Green Deal assessor) can be found here.

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