Did no one call the plumber? Analysis of the Heat and Buildings Strategy’s approach to skills and workers

This briefing paper analyses the Government’s recent Heat and Buildings Strategy, published last month, insofar that it provides clarity, direction and support for the workers who would deliver the decarbonisation of home heat and thus play a key role in the UK’s Net Zero plans.


  • The UK’s Net Zero plans mean decarbonising the heating of buildings, including homes, which account for 14% of carbon emissions. This will mean replacing millions of domestic fossil fuel-burning heating systems with new ones, including heat pumps.
  • The Government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy (HBS) is meant to address this challenge, but it largely overlooks a vital element of decarbonising heat: training the workers who would carry out the installations and modifications required.
  • Evidence around this workforce – plumbers, installers, heat, and gas engineers – is worryingly thin. Neither government nor industry even know how many people are currently trained to install heat pumps, for instance.
  • Many of the workforce are likely to be self-employed sole traders, responsible for their own skills and training. Such workers may face greater costs than others from undertaking training, so heat policy needs to address the financial barriers to training.
  • The HBS largely fails to do this, leaving the delivery of training to the market and trusting that growing demand for heat pumps will incentivise workers to pay for their own training.
  • This approach is unlikely to succeed, since the HBS does not provide adequate stimulus for consumer demand for pumps and creates uncertainty about their future and the adoption of hydrogen as a potential alternative.
  • Ongoing SMF work with the workforce suggests that without further policy intervention, many workers will hold off spending time and money on training for heat pump installation.


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