About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

The problem

To meet the UK's targets to cut climate pollution, there need to be 600,000 heat pumps every year by 2028 – a 20-fold increase from the 30,000 a year that are currently installed annually. To achieve this substantial increase, we will need far more skilled heat pump engineers who are able to design and install these heating systems in people’s homes.

While little is known about the current size of the workforce installing heat pumps, the most likely estimates for the number of installers is in the low thousands. To achieve 600,000 annual installations by 2028, the Heat Pump Association predicts that 33,700 thousand installers are needed, increasing to 69,500 by 2035.

Monetary incentives such as “golden hellos” have been used in the past to encourage new entrants into specific fields, such as the early career payments that have been used to boost teacher retention in shortage subjects. Would a similar monetary incentive, given to prospective trainees, work to incentivise newcomers into the heat pump industry as well as encourage those working in conventional heating and plumbing to retrain?

A golden hello given to prospective trainees could address the cost barriers attached to heat pump training – the cost of the training itself, as well as any loss in revenue incurred during the duration of the training. With these barriers addressed, the hope is that more people would be willing to undertake the necessary training.

The speed test

To explore whether golden hellos could be used to incentivise people to train as heat pump installers, we started by mapping out what the current landscape looks like, identifying the main stakeholders involved, sketching out the routes to training, and deciding on the main assumptions to be tested.

This revealed that the process of getting qualified to become a heat pump installer is lengthy: to undertake a heat pump training course, the person needs to be a qualified plumber or conventional heating engineer first. These prerequisites can also take years to acquire via an apprenticeship or college route.

The process can also be expensive, with heat pump training courses costing up to £1,500 and needing to be repeated every five years. In addition to the cost of the course itself, a self-employed tradesperson can lose up to five days in revenue by attending the course, during which time they are unable to work.

Our review of the existing literature revealed that there is little evidence of the impact of previous golden hellos schemes and the little research that exists has had mixed results.

So we interviewed 15 heat pump training providers, research organisations, industry experts, manufacturers and gas engineers and asked them whether golden hellos could incentivise more entrants into the heat pump installer market. Participants gave us mixed feedback on the idea. It was generally acknowledged that while golden hellos could mitigate against the high cost of training, a financial incentive would not address other, more important, barriers preventing people from entering the industry. Many interviewees believed that the continued demand for gas boilers, lack of confidence in the market and government policy, and the low demand for heat pumps could outweigh the perceived benefit of receiving a financial incentive.

To better understand what is currently preventing people from training as heat pump installers and how a financial incentive could address these issues, we used the COM-B model of behaviour change to map the existing barriers in terms of capability, opportunity and motivation. The model illustrates that most of the barriers to training, particularly the lack of trust and knowledge about future government policy toward net zero, the age breakdown of the market and the lack of a business motive, remain largely unaddressed by a golden hello intervention.


Given the brief nature of the research project, we were unable to fully determine whether golden hellos could help incentivise people into the industry. The lack of evidence on the impact of similar schemes in other sectors, as well as the complexity of the barriers faced by prospective trainees, suggests that financial incentives are unlikely to work in isolation from other initiatives that address the barriers to training. A better understanding of what would motivate different groups of people to enter the industry would be needed before taking this idea further.

Any incentive would have to cover more than just the cost of training. For sole traders, it would also have to cover any loss of revenue incurred during the training itself at a minimum. An incentive of around £5,000 might be suitable for motivating those in adjacent industries to retrain.

Finally, given that there are currently no direct training routes into the heat pump market, any approach to training should also be tailored for new entrants into the sector, who will have to first complete a lengthy apprenticeship or college course, compared to those who are retraining from adjacent industries, who will only need to undertake up to five days of training. New trainees might need a larger financial incentive to attract them into the industry and special consideration should be given to increasing industry retention and decreasing drop-off (for example by staggering the payments throughout the training process). Additionally, given the low take-up of apprenticeships in general, incentives and training support should be given to experienced installers and employers to take on apprentices.