GUEST BLOG: Energy-related apprenticeships

Dave Horton tells us about energy apprenticeships currently available in the UK

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With new government targets around carbon reductions, local authority declarations of Climate Emergency and the basic requirement for organisations to reduce their energy costs, carbon emissions training and upskilling people as energy experts, is a must-have going forward.

An ideal route to do this is through formal apprenticeship training. But whether you are able to access apprenticeships and the associated funding often depends on where you live.  Living in one of the devolved countries in the UK largely means you can’t access recognised apprenticeships being delivered today in England.

This needs to be changed and simplified to take ensure recognised and successful apprenticeships available in England can easily be approved and delivered in all devolved countries.

Modern Apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships changed drastically in 2017 with the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy and Trailblazer Apprenticeships (see funding model section), moving from the traditional new young starter in a business, to the upskilling and development of current staff, of any age.

The old “traditional” model of starting individuals from school/college/university is still available but government is pushing for organisations to upskill current staff as well. An organisation can also attract upwards of £3,000 additional funding when starting younger people on apprenticeships.

Energy Apprenticeships

Currently, there are several energy-related apprenticeships in place to help upskill individuals in an organisation. The Apprenticeships are set at different educational levels;

  • Level 2 – GSCE equivalent
  • Level 3 – A level equivalent
  • Level 4 – HNC equivalent

The main energy-related apprenticeships available are;

  • Property Maintenance Operative – Level 2 (12 months)
  • Junior Energy Manager Apprenticeship (JEM) – Level 3 (14-24 months)
  • Building Information Modelling Systems (BIMS) – Level 3 (14-24 months)
  • Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) – Level 4 (24-36 months)

However, due to different models in each devolved country in the UK, these are only available in England.  This can cause major issues for larger organisations that have staff across England, Scotland and Wales, in that, they need to provide equal opportunities to all employees.

Network Rail is a perfect example where they can’t currently offer apprenticeships to staff in Wales or Scotland.

Training your own people to manage your energy and energy management systems is obviously a lot cheaper than creating and employing new “Energy” related FTE roles.  Who knows the organisation better than your own staff?

Junior Energy Manager Apprenticeship – Wales

The Junior Energy Manager Apprenticeship is a 14-24 month course that includes, but isn’t limited to, 11 learning modules;

  • An Introduction to the Fundamentals of Energy Management
  • An Introduction to building operations
  • Energy Measurement, Assessment and Verification
  • Behavioural Change
  • Energy & Carbon Legislation and Compliance
  • Energy & Carbon policy, strategy and planning
  • Waste Management
  • Water Management
  • Transport Carbon Management
  • Carbon Management within an IT environment
  • Energy & Energy Services Procurement

The Welsh Assembly have a very different Apprenticeship Model in place to England and require a formal qualification to be in place to offer any apprenticeship.

In England the Apprenticeship is the qualification and attracts, on completion;

  • Certified Energy Manager status by the Energy Managers Association
  • Technical Membership of the Energy Institute

Real Energy Management (REM) and Group Horizon Ltd (an approved Apprenticeship Provider in England), have worked with the Welsh Assembly, Education Department for Wales and ProQual (UK Qualification certification body) to make the Junior Energy Manager Apprenticeship available in Wales.

It is well recognised in Wales that Energy and Energy Management is a must-have skillset and training must be available and funded.

After 9 months of hard work this is now in the final stages of approval with a Working Group to agree final funding and specifications of delivery and is expected to be available from Sept 2021.  Currently there is a waiting list of organisations who have already signed up 70 individuals, to start the apprenticeship as soon as this final stage is completed.

However, the other apprenticeships mentioned related to energy still need to go through the same process in Wales and none of the four main apprenticeships are available in Scotland or Northern Ireland

Modern Apprenticeship Funding.

Starting in April 2017 the UK Gov. introduced a new tax or Levy, called the Apprenticeship Levy which affects around 2% of UK employers, all those with an annual payroll of over £3 million.  The employer must pay 0.5% of their total annual payroll into the levy on a monthly basis.  In addition, a 10% contribution is added to each monthly payment.

The apprenticeship levy is a compulsory tax on employers in the UK to help fund the development and delivery of apprenticeships, with the aim of improving the quality and quantity of those available.

The levy payment due is paid to HMRC through the Pay-As-You-Earn (P.A.Y.E) process alongside payment of Income Tax and National Insurance contributions and is held in a ‘digital fund’ that the employer can use to pay for apprenticeship training.

Employers fall into one of two groups Levy or Non-Levy payers, based purely on payroll size.

A known example of a levy-paying employer being a company with approx. 5,000 employees (averaging salary of £28k-£30k) have a monthly payment of around £70,000 into the levy.  To put this into context the Energy Manager’s Apprenticeship has a call down of approx. £300-£350 per month for the 24-month programme.

The employer can call down their payments as they register their employees onto relevant apprenticeships.  After two years any unused Levy payments are returned to a central pot and “lost” from the employer pot.  These “lost” funds are placed into a centralised fund which can be used by small non-levy paying employers, making training and apprenticeships available to all.

Currently, SME or “Non-Levy” paying organisation (include public bodies, local authorities, NHS Trusts etc.) can claim up to 10 fully funded apprenticeships.  The 11th person onwards would attract 95% funding, so for the Energy Manager Apprenticeship which has £9,000 of funding associated with it an SME would look to have to pay £450.

In addition, any levy paying company is able to nominate other smaller non-levy paying companies/public bodies to utilise their unused levy payments, ideal to help supply chain and local small businesses fund apprenticeships.

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