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Blair Plumbing & Heating Solutions Ltd:
Case study

Blair Plumbing & Heating Solutions Ltd

Businesses are looking to upskill their staff and diversify their services with renewable technologies such as heat pumps.

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Please note that this page contains information and links most relevant for people living in Scotland.

There has never been a greater time for businesses to upskill employees on renewable technologies. The Scottish Government’s Heat in Buildings Strategy aims to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. To meet this target, more homes and buildings will need to be fitted with renewable technologies.

Businesses are looking to upskill their staff and diversify their services with renewable technologies such as heat pumps. This is what Graeme Blair, from Blair Plumbing & Heating Solutions, recognised when he put his employee Iain Winnard through a heat pump training course at Glasgow Clyde College.

Funding for training like this is important as it encourages businesses to upskill. Graeme took advantage of the Low Carbon Skills Grant, a scheme provided by the Scottish Government and run by Energy Saving Trust, that provided funding for apprentices to complete a short heat pump training course.

Based in Lochgilphead, Blair Plumbing & Heating Solutions offer a variety of heating and plumbing solutions across Argyll and the neighbouring islands. These services include boiler and central heating repairs, servicing of boilers, unvented hot water cylinders, solar thermal and air source heat pumps.

Iain Winnard (L) Graeme Blair (R)

Accessing funding to upksill

The Low Carbon Skills Grant was funded by the Scottish Government from 2020-2021 to help equip businesses with the skills required to install heat pumps. Courses were available through a number of colleges across Scotland.

Graeme found out about the grant via SNIPEF and describes the process of gaining the funding as ‘effortless’. The grant covered 100% of both Iain and Graeme’s training fees while on the course at Glasgow Clyde College. Training can often cause headaches for businesses as they need to ensure employees have enough time to attend college while managing their normal work activities.

In total the course took the apprentices four days to complete.

Why is now the time to upskill?

Graeme acknowledges that the heating and plumbing landscape is changing to meet the Scottish Government’s net zero targets and the best way to prepare his business is to train and invest in his staff.

“The technologies are changing, and the carbon emission targets need to be met. Iain and other apprentices are going to be working with this technology for the rest of their lives, as far as I can see.

“A huge focus for Blair Plumbing & Heating Solutions is to develop staff and let them grow within the company. As a small business, it’s really important to have well skilled employees.”

Graeme Blair, director, Blair Plumbing & Heating Solutions

Graeme is not only preparing his team for the future, but he’s also preparing them for the jobs that are in demand now. They have recently seen a significant increase in demand for air source heat pumps in the areas they service.

What does the future look like?

Graeme can already see a significant shift in the demand for renewable heating systems through the enquiries he is getting now. Customer interest in air source heat pumps is mainly driven by environmental reasons, and the increasing number of funding options available to householders and SMEs is also helping to drive the demand.

As far as Iain is concerned, renewables are the future, and he would encourage his peers to upskill now:

“The industry is changing and you’re now becoming a renewables engineer. It’s important from an apprentice and employer’s point of view to communicate this. There’s so much positive change happening that I think it’s a good industry to be in.

“At the end of the day Scotland is working towards its net zero goal, the more we learn about renewable technologies the better. It’s exciting!”

Iain Winnard, plumbing and heating engineer, Blair Plumbing & Heating Solutions

MCS Certification Fund

Energy Saving Trust’s MCS Certification Fund provides grants to Scottish installers to become MCS-certified for heat pumps for the first time.

With the number of heat pump installations required in Scottish homes and businesses to achieve net zero targets, ensuring customers have working and quality heating systems installed is key. The Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) plays an important role in this as the Scottish Government’s chosen certification body for its multiple funding schemes. MCS certification demonstrates compliance of both products and installation contractors with recognised industry standards.

Graeme’s business has been affected by not having the certification and is currently undergoing the application phase of the MCS certification fund.

Further information

There has never been a better time to upskill and diversify your business. As part of Energy Saving’s Trust work on the Sustainable Energy Supply Chain programme, we’re working to promote the funding and training available in Scotland to help upskill workers on renewable technologies such as heat pumps.

If you are interested in becoming a heat pump installer in Scotland, see the available funding and read our guide, which includes a list of colleges offering heat pump short courses.

Last updated: 13 April 2022