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16 September 2008

British Gas trebles recruitment of apprentice gas engineers

  • British Gas bucks employment downturn with the creation of 1,000 new jobs
  • £40million investment commitment over the next 18 months

  • Helping to tackle UK skills shortage of 20,000 domestic gas engineers
  • Women apprentice recruits have trebled in the last 2 years

British Gas is trebling its recruitment of apprentice gas engineers creating 1,000 new jobs over the next 18 months.  The company will invest £40 million in recruitment and training across its network of five Engineering Academy training centres based across the UK.

The move by British Gas, the largest single trainer and employer of domestic gas engineers in the UK, will help to plug the industry wide shortage of domestic gas engineers, a shortfall estimated to stand at 20,000.  The new British Gas apprentices will be joining an existing workforce of 9,000 gas engineers and will be trained to NVQ Level 3 standard.

The investment will also help to fund two new Academies in Leicester and Scotland, which will open in 2009.  The other Academy locations are in Dartford, Leeds and Thatcham. The Academies have been individually designed to combine traditional classroom facilities with state of the art equipment and technology, all housing over 200 gas appliances.

Chris Weston, Managing Director, British Gas Services said "Our people are our greatest strength and our engineers are the most visible aspect of our business on a daily basis.

"While some may have thought apprenticeships were consigned to history in the way of the traditional black and white TV set - we have found the success of the apprenticeship scheme

is helping to drive the business forward.  It's an important route to attracting motivated and enthusiastic recruits and providing an enviably high standard of quality training.  Research has shown our apprentices to be 25 per cent more efficient and customer focused than employees trained elsewhere."

The length of the training scheme has recently increased from 12 to 18 months to maximise the learning opportunity for new apprentices.  The rigorous training programme begins with a unique selection process, including specially designed online psychometric value based testing to screen potential apprentices for the right character and attitude to offer exceptional customer service.

All apprentices receive energy efficiency training to ensure they are aware of new boiler technology and gain an understanding of how to communicate simple energy efficiency saving measures to customers.

British Gas currently receives 50 applications for each position on this sought-after scheme through its Website: http://www.britishgasacademy.co.uk/.   All trainee gas engineers also work towards their Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award during their apprenticeship with British Gas.

Chris Weston, Managing Director, British Gas Services, continued, "British Gas engineers carry out over 7 million visits to customers homes each year, it is therefore absolutely vital that they are personable, affable and naturally polite."

The Winning Formula

The British Gas Academy has delivered exceptional success with retention rates at 96 per cent for those recruits who join and remain in training through to completion; the highest rate of success in the industry.  Furthermore, 90 per cent of apprentices are still with the company after five years.

The company is also working to increase the number of women engineers and over the last 2 years it has trebled the number of female recruits from 4% to 13%.

Toni Das, 25, an astro-physics graduate from Queen Mary Westfield College, University of London, explains why she switched to a vocational training route at British Gas's Dartford Academy: "After graduating from university I thought about what I wanted from a career and realised the most important things for me were job security, practical skills and the chance to work closely with different kinds of people; an engineering apprenticeship was an obvious choice for me.  I was thrilled to be accepted to the British Gas Academy as it is unrivalled in the industry and the training I received set me up to do the job I want to do for life."

The average starting salary for a British Gas trainee engineer is £13,500, which can rise to as much as £29,000 as a qualified engineer.

Plugging the skills gap

In addition to tackling the 20,000 shortfall in domestic gas engineers, the announcement will also help to deliver the Government's target of providing every qualifying young person with an apprenticeship place by 2013.

Welcoming the additional apprenticeships, Minister for Skills David Lammy said:

"The apprenticeships programme is at the heart of the Government's strategy to boost skills levels, ensuring businesses benefit from greater productivity and enabling young people and adults to develop rewarding careers.   I have no doubt that by investing in training now; British Gas will be better equipped to meet the challenges of the future."

Sir Roy Gardner, Chairman, Apprenticeship Ambassadors Network said:  "I am pleased to see British Gas increasing its commitment to Apprenticeships. 

"It is important to remember that Apprenticeships are good for business, good for the economy and good for people.  They give employers the skills they need to remain competitive and profitable.  I believe that one of the greatest threats to Apprenticeships is that not enough employers appreciate the benefits that they bring - increased productivity, improved competitiveness and greater staff retention to name but a few."

The CBI's Director-General, Richard Lambert, said:  " The expansion of its apprenticeship programme is to be applauded.  High quality apprenticeship training opens up a range of exciting and well paid career opportunities to young people and ensures that the UK has the skilled employees we need to remain competitive. "

Notes to editors:

About the role: Apprentice Technical Engineer:

Technical central heating engineers carry out annual safety inspections of customers' central heating systems, plus system maintenance (including fault diagnosis and repair) and control and pipe layout upgrades to improve efficiency and flexibility.

Benefits include:

  • Earnings between £17,127 and £29,000 as a qualified technical engineer.
  • Vehicle, toolkit, uniform and laptop provided as part of the course induction.
  • Company pension, sharesave scheme and good career prospects.

The recruitment and training schedule to NVQ level 3 of 1,600 apprentices between now and 2010 will be a tripling of previous recruitment levels.

  • 2008 - 400 recruits.
  • 2009 - 575 recruits.
  • 2010 - 600 recruits.
  • The British Gas Engineering Academy was formed in January 2003 in response to the company's need to recruit 5,000 new gas engineers over the following 5 years.  The Academy has been expanding during a period of business growth.
  • The Academy has training centres across the UK from Dartford, to Leeds and Glasgow.
  • Ofsted have inspected all the centres and The Academy received an "Outstanding Grade 1" award which demonstrates our total commitment to ensuring the highest level of training.
  • Engineers hold NVQ L2 and L3 (or equivalent) in order to set the highest standards of provision of expertise for our customers.
  • All apprentices receive energy efficiency training as part of the scheme to ensure they are aware of new boiler technology and understand how central heating systems can help to maximise energy savings and efficiency in the home.
  • All apprentices are provided with a vehicle, full set of tools, uniform, reference books and laptop computer as they begin their training.
  • For further information on recruitment and applications visit http://www.britishgasacademy.co.uk/.

For further information please contact:

Claire Monaghan - 07979 566 249 - supporting pictures and case studies of current apprentices in training are available.

About British Gas

British Gas, the biggest energy supplier in the country and part of the Centrica group of companies, has the lowest carbon intensity of any of the major UK energy suppliers in terms of tonnes of CO2 emitted per megawatt hour of electricity supplied to customers. It was cited as Britain's greenest energy supplier in a survey by WWF (UK Power Giants: Generating Climate Change 2007, 28 Sept 07).

Centrica is set to be one of the biggest investors in renewable power generation, principally offshore wind. Its Lynn and Inner Dowsing development, currently being constructed off the Lincolnshire coast, will be the UK's largest offshore wind development when completed

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