National Apprenticeship Week: Emma Bohan of IMS Heat Pumps shares her story
8th February 2023
Emma Bohan, general manager of South Yorkshire-based IMS Heat Pumps, shares the benefits her business saw from hiring apprentices, including why you should consider an apprenticeship in the green energy and heating industry.
IMS Heat Pumps was founded by a group of family and friends in Sheffield more than 25 years ago. Since then, it has grown to install hundreds of heat pumps every year across the UK.
With 32 employees over two offices – an English base in Sheffield and a Scottish base in Perth – IMS currently employs five apprentices and an additional two trainees. The company recognises the importance and advantages of fostering talent and nurturing their employees’ skills.
To celebrate the positive impact of apprenticeships, IMS Heat Pumps and other contractors are joining MCS in celebrating National Apprenticeship Week, taking place 6 – 12 February 2023.
Throughout the week, colleges, students, employers and career advisers will come together to celebrate apprenticeships while top organisations and employers will showcase opportunities and actively seek apprentices.
This year’s theme is ‘Skills For Life‘, focusing on how apprentices can develop the expertise and knowledge required for a rewarding, lifelong career. The aim is for businesses to develop a talented workforce equipped with future-ready skills.
When we caught up with Emma recently, she told us how her business is supported by apprentices who learn dedicated hands-on skills within the company. She explained how the company’s apprentices are growing and gaining the skillset they need to develop a career in the home-grown energy industry.
The power of apprenticeships
Emma employs five apprentices in a range of roles across her business. Three of the trainee heat pump engineers at IMS Heat Pumps are apprentices currently studying Emerging Technologies at Perth College alongside their employment, including brothers Ben and Charlie Wyatt.
Emma’s technical sales consultant Jordi Duncan is also at Perth College, completing a modern apprenticeship in Engineering. The firm’s office administrator Kayley
Greaves is undergoing a Business Administration apprenticeship at Sheffield College.
After realising the beneficial impact that apprentices have on the business, Emma has also taken on two trainee heat pump engineers who completed plumbing and heating qualifications at Sheffield College. Plus, alongside their further education, the company is supporting them with in-house training to transition into specialising in heat pump installations – an option which the college does not currently offer.
Gaining ‘Skills for Life’
When we asked Emma and her apprentices to share their thoughts on apprenticeships with us, they told us all about their experiences and the value of hands-on learning for creating long-term careers:
What does this year’s theme ‘Skills For Life’ mean to you as a renewable energy installer?
(Emma): Right now, training in any avenue of the renewables sector will set anyone up with the skills to embark on a career for life. Green jobs are going to be everywhere, and available to anyone with the right set of skills. They really are the future!
(Ben): To me, ‘Skills For Life’ are skills that I will always be able to use for my entire career, no matter the setting. The skills I learn here will not only be useful to me, but also to my employer throughout my career.
(Charlie): The skills that I acquire from the training I’m undergoing with IMS Heat Pumps and Perth College will mean that I can install heat pumps to a high standard. These are vital for giving UK consumer confidence in low carbon energy and heat.
Why should people choose a career in renewables?
(Emma): The opportunities have never been better and there is currently a lack of qualified people across a range of industries that make up the renewables sector. For heat pumps alone, they are talking about needing 45,000 more installers within the next five years.
(Kayley): The renewables industry has plenty of great pathways for you to build and develop a career. Green jobs will also be a significant contributor to the UK economy for years to come as the Government commits more to building a clean, green energy infrastructure. The renewables industry is also vital to the environment as decarbonising UK homes is needed to combat climate change.
(Jordi): The renewables industry is a great choice to learn a trade in as it continues to grow at a non-stop rate. It’s also an incredibly interesting sector to learn more about. I knew very little about renewables before joining IMS, but three years into my apprenticeship, I’ve gained a huge amount of experience and a lot of technical knowledge about heat pumps.
What is the benefit of an apprenticeship over other training routes?
(Emma) You are paid to train, rather than paying to learn and the practical elements of many jobs can’t be taught by books alone! As the apprenticeship route provides learning pathways equivalent to degree level, you no longer need to attend university to get higher education. Instead, you can earn while gaining the invaluable industry experience you need.
(Jordi): With an apprenticeship you can earn multiple qualifications through modules offered by colleges to help you either specialise or diversify your skillset. You can often learn a lot more by being hands-on in the field too. There are always opportunities at work to gain more experience by getting involved with jobs and projects.
(Charlie): Apprenticeships sometimes offer more choice to develop your career than traditional academic learning. After completing my Level 2 in Plumbing and Heating, IMS Heat Pumps offered me the opportunity to pursue a dedicated renewable heating training route, which my college doesn’t offer. It seems crazy that there is no choice to learn more about renewables at some colleges considering the world is moving more towards low carbon heating and energy every day.
What advice would you give to young people or otherwise considering an apprenticeship?
(Emma) Open your own doors! Get in touch with the right people at local colleges and ask about the courses in renewables that they have. If they don’t have any, ask why! Do your research – what interests you? What do you like doing? And match these with courses available. Find good, local companies who are working in that space and contact them about taking you on – initiative goes a long way with employers!
(Kayley): In my experience, am apprenticeship is such a good route to go down. You can learn and gain knowledge on the job alongside classroom learning. So you gain qualifications and get paid at the same time!
(Jordi): An apprenticeship allows you to acquire valuable skills and experience in your chosen sector. You can improve things like your own knowledge on daily working activities and gain qualifications when you’ve finished training. You’ll learn in the work environment, developing the practical skills and understanding you need to excel in your role.
How can we bridge the skills gap in the renewables sector?
(Emma) Investment, investment, investment. Practical skills courses. More availability of paid –to-train schemes, such as apprenticeships. We also need fully funded, consistent Government support to encourage uptake in relevant trades in the sector.
(Charlie): The sector needs to realise the future is moving towards low carbon heating and plumbing. We need to develop more dedicated apprenticeship courses in renewables in colleges across the country to encourage more trainees to gain the skills we need to grow the industry.
(Ben): Companies and colleges need to give more consideration to apprenticeship courses in renewables. They are vital technologies for the future. We need to encourage more people towards apprenticeships too – they are the best way to learn Skills For Life.