Speculate to accumulate

The energy industry is constantly evolving and for many in the building services sector it can be hard to keep track of the latest product innovations, government legislation and incentives. Here Louise Smith, Customer Marketing Manager at Schneider Electric, highlights the continuing importance of training in the market place, the role it must continue to play and the benefits it can bring to installers and businesses alike.

Helping businesses to navigate the changes in the market place is one of the main reasons why Schneider Electric launched its Energy University programme in 2009. The free online education community was launched to help people to learn more about energy efficiency concepts and energy saving ideas.

At the time, the energy industry was entering into an exciting new era in which the issue of sustainability was gaining momentum and the need for new training solutions was rising. Two years on and it’s incredibly interesting to track the most popular training courses and to gain a better understanding of the needs and wants of industry.

Topping the course list is ‘Energy Efficiency Fundamentals’, this is followed closely by ‘Alternative Power Generation Technologies’ and ‘Introduction to Lighting Basics’. With engineers and contractors topping the list of members, it’s interesting that it is these topics which are the most selected – highlighting the importance and continuing interest in the basics of energy efficiency. Training is not only about learning new topics and solutions but also developing a greater understanding or perhaps even seeing a different side to an issue.

The importance of training

One of the biggest barriers to training take-up is actually the word itself and its connotations. In businesses there is a tendency to view training in terms of financial outlay rather than its potential gains. Perceptions are beginning to change as businesses begin to recognise the importance of developing their employees and helping them to reach their potential, but we still have some way to go.

Training in many cases is no longer two to three days out of the office and thanks to online programmes it’s possible to engage in and complete courses online from the comfort of the office. Likewise, many of these courses are free of charge and should be actively encouraged.

Technology advances at such a fast pace that there is the potential risk of businesses being left behind, not through the lack of research and development but through the lack of tangible skills in selling the products.

With this philosophy in mind, training can add to the bottom line. Helping employees to reach their full potential is great for business; instilling confidence into the team, increasing employee retention and resulting in improved production and profit.

Training can also open up a variety of opportunities within new markets. The renewable energy sector is a clear example and through a deep understanding of the various pieces of legislation and incentives on offer, as well as knowledge of the technologies themselves, it can be the difference between winning a contract or it falling into the hands of a competitor.

New technology

Low carbon technologies are at the forefront of government strategy to help the UK become more energy efficient within our homes and businesses and energy efficiency sits at the heart of the issue. It’s not hard to see why this topic is at the top of the training agenda, particularly with buildings being a pivotal element of the UK’s carbon reduction targets.

For contractors and specifiers therefore, it’s important to be fully armed with all of the latest energy efficiency data; the potential savings which occupiers can gain from the implementation of new technology solutions as well as the incentives that they can benefit from.

Energy efficiency ties in closely with so many other areas and it’s imperative that businesses and individuals alike get the basics right. Even for the experienced contractor or specifier, a refresher course in energy efficiency can be incredibly rewarding and present a number of new concepts and ideas.

The beauty of the energy industry is that it is constantly changing, which is what makes it such an interesting sector to be in. What this does mean for industry however is that there is always more to learn.

Renewables are a perfect example, offering businesses the potential to become more energy efficient and improve their energy ratings. However in order to get there, businesses are often reliant on the advice and guidance from contractors and the buildings services industry on what technology is best suited, the efficiency benefits and even how this might affect their ratings through the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency scheme.

This is a lot to get your head around and that’s before considering many other elements including building regulations, implementation of smart metering or even existing energy management solutions within the premises.

Ultimately what the government doesn’t want to see happen is for renewable energy solutions to be applied to inefficient buildings, hence the conditions of the Green Deal and the RHI. Through these schemes, buildings must meet a certain level of efficiency before the installation of renewable technologies can be considered.

Crucially the role of the contractor and specifier therefore must be an educated one where businesses can rely on the advice and information provided in order to implement the most energy efficient premises possible. Training is essential within this.

The case with buildings

It is now well known that buildings account for around 40% of the UK’s total energy consumption and if training can help businesses to improve their energy performance through the help and support of contractors then it is doing its job.

One of the biggest barriers however is time and the availability of staff to commit to courses and training programmes. This is something which managers must lead on and encourage employees to do.

Helping businesses to overcome this barrier must be a priority. In some instances hands-on experience is essential and in this case it’s important for businesses to keep safety, and not cost, front of mind. Accreditation from well-known institutions and industry bodies is a good guide as it shows that the programme and associated resources have been recognised and approved. For more issues based information and to build general knowledge, online courses and programmes can be ideal.

The Energy University offers a series of modules and assessments across a number of core areas. Members can search for relevant topics and then follow the course online. If they don’t have time to complete the session in one go they can return, when it’s suitable for them as the system will record their progress.

For those who want it, there are solutions to meet the every need of the building services sector when it comes to training. Moving forward we all have a role to play in ensuring our businesses remain competitive and offer the correct advice and solutions to customers. With so many free training resources online, there is no reason why we shouldn’t all realise our potential.

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