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Financial support for heat pump trainees

What did we want to learn?

Whilst the UK Government has set a target of 600,000 heat pump installations per year by 2028, one of the critical outstanding gaps to achieve this goal is a shortage of heat pump installers. Existing gas heating engineers have many necessary skills, and there is a range of subsided heat pump training courses on offer, but even so entering the heat pump sector is challenging.

This project, in collaboration with Surrey County Council, studies ways to smooth the process for that cohort to become heat pump installers and do retrofits of existing homes. A core hypothesis is that prospective trainees face barriers to entering the sector both pre-and post-training. At the same time, consumer demand is robust for their existing gas and plumbing services in which they have more confidence and experience. As such, participants who’ve trained in heat pumps might not end up making use of their training.

We wanted to study whether providing post-training financial payments alongside free training might smooth the passage into heat pumps. Alongside this, we’ve used participant interviews to gain a deeper understanding about the barriers and needs newly trained engineers face.

What we did

Since the project kicked off in January, a cohort of 18 gas engineers have undertaken the BPEC Award in the Installation and Maintenance of Heat Pump Systems, paid for in full by Surrey County Council. We interviewed eight engineers who finished their training and offered them two types of financial support. Half the engineers were offered a £1,000 bursary to cover the costs of activities to progress in the sector and the other half were offered a monthly payment per heat pump they install for six months after their training. We also interviewed company owners where the course participants were employees rather than sole traders. We did ten interviews overall.

As well as studying the perceived utility of the financial support offer, we wanted to understand their work situation and background, reasons for retraining in heat pumps and their experience of training.

The cohort of interviewees

All trainees had plumbing and gas backgrounds and most had worked in the heating sector for a few years before undertaking the heat pump training course. Likewise, almost all already had some experience installing heat pumps, especially in newbuild properties. In our study, we found that those who did the heat pump training were more likely to be formalising existing knowledge or work experience in the technology rather than arriving at heat pumps completely fresh.

The engineers interviewed cited their motivation as being customer demand. However, this didn’t mean they sought immediately to work with heat pumps. When asked if they are planning to become heat pump installers right now, responses were mixed. For some, the training wasn’t about delivery of heat pumps now but rather preparation for anticipated future demand. As demand for their gas and plumbing services is high, those trainees did not report being pressed to immediately add heat pumps to their offering.

The engineers interviewed showed a preference towards a mixed portfolio of work. Most trainees said they were interested in adding heat pumps to their offerings and would not be exclusively installing heat pumps. Some trainees showed interest in combining heat pumps with other technologies, such as solar and batteries as part of a whole-house renovation while others wanted to continue installing some gas boilers, or working on more general plumbing.

The trainees who participated were already motivated to upskill in heat pumps. While the free training offered was appreciated, it wasn’t the factor that most strongly influenced their participation. For some, though, it did spur action. Trainees noted that the training was not really free as opportunity costs were incurred from undertaking a five-day training course in the form of forgone income.

Reflections on financial support offers

The aim of studying these financial support offers has been to see whether they can meaningfully assist those with heat pump expertise to move into working with heat pumps. As it’s early days, our reflections on the utility of the financial support are preliminary.

So far, we are seeing early indications that the bursary has had a speedier uptake than the monthly payment per heat pump and has been received more positively overall. Installers who were offered the bursary appreciated its upfront nature and the fact that they could tailor it to their needs to progress in the sector, including covering the costs of MCS certification fees, additional training and membership in umbrella schemes.

Some installers who were offered the monthly payments per heat pump install were unsure if they would start working on heat pumps immediately after the training. Thus they were unsure if they would benefit from the six month window that the support is available.

Around half of interviewees haven’t participated. This may indicate that the financial support offers are insufficiently generous or appear too complex to administer, or that they do not intend to work with heat pump retrofits at present.

The project will run until the end of 2023 at which time we will be able to better comment on the efficacy of each of the approaches.


Our research thus far shows that market signals are the most prominent tool to persuade more companies to retrain their employees in heat pumps.

Our research so far shows that some heating installers are engaged with the future role of heat pumps in home heating and are willing to retrain in heat pumps to future-proof their businesses. This is true even if they are not planning to move into the heat pump space now.

Studies from both BEIS and Vaillant show that installers are calling the government for more financial support. This study aims to provide a better understanding of what types of financial support are more appealing to installers. At the end of the study, we will look at the take-up of each payment and the reported long-term effects on the business in their move into heat pumps.

Though the sample size is small, a key finding from this study is the preference for a mixed work portfolio. While at Nesta, like others in the domain, we have typically expected heat pump installers to specialise in this technology, it seems more likely that new entrants to the sector will have a mixed portfolio of work. As such, the number of training positions will need to be greater than the number of full time equivalent installers required to reach installation targets as many of them will not end up installing only heat pumps. We’ve explored the consequences of this in more detail on Medium.

Over the next few months, we will continue awarding bursaries and payments to firms participating in the project. We will interview the companies participating in the project later in the year to discuss their heat pump journey, the support they need and the usefulness of the financial payments provided.


Oliver Zanetti

Oliver Zanetti

Oliver Zanetti

Senior Mission Manager, sustainable future mission

Oliver Zanetti is mission manager for Nesta’s sustainable future mission, which focuses on home decarbonisation and economic recovery.

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