Having a couple of trainees shadow me on a recent Non-Domestic EPC survey took me back to when I started out in this industry, delivering NDEA (Non-Domestic Energy Assessment) training courses.

We each did our survey at an MOT garage before going through them together to help the trainees understand why they were collecting certain information. I thoroughly enjoyed explaining the process and know from previous experience that those shadowing me find it worthwhile. Its value is evident when trainees submit their first EPC for audit, and it sails through – particularly pertinent when there’s currently a 40% fail rate with an organisation that both trains and audits.

I had put a call out on social media for any trainees who were about to, or had been through their NDEA course, and wanted some good old fashioned ‘on the job’ training. Unlike back in the day when I was involved in training, I don’t believe training companies currently offer a practical learning experience. Instead, they let candidates work out their own way to collect data, which is no substitute and frankly does them a disservice. These two trainees responded via the NDEA Facebook group and wanted someone to shadow as they felt like rabbits in the headlights, despite completing their course.

Taking up this offer is a no-brainer for anyone wanting some real know-how, as I’m usually working all over the UK, meaning that those shadowing me only have minimal travel costs. The response so far – with others around the country also expressing an interest – shows there is a need for this, although I’m aware it probably couldn’t continue as a completely altruistic exercise. After all, I’m getting paid to do a survey, but it’s still an investment of my time. There could be some mileage in offering it as a paid-for service for trainees and newly qualified NDEAs, perhaps with a series of workshops alongside the mentoring to analyse the buildings we survey, whereby candidates could pay me and the building owner might get a free EPC.

Funding issues aside, I’m genuinely passionate about giving the next generation of Energy Assessors the best start on their career path. The hope is that as I look to a future when I won’t be at every survey and can revert to doing more training, the shadowing process can also be about finding out whether these trainees are a good fit for Murton & Co – either as employees or sub-contractors – as we look to invest in growing our team, because I’ll have found out about their skill sets while working alongside them.

I also haven’t given up on the possibility of setting up an apprenticeship scheme – part of a Murton Academy – perhaps using the Better Building Consultant scheme as a building block. As I said on the Elmhurst podcast recently, I see its initiative as a way of leading to an apprenticeship scheme. Like many firms, we’ve struggled to employ Energy Assessors – a lot of whom want to be self-employed – so when trying to build a team, being able to offer a Better Buildings Consultant title might be more attractive for those wanting an elevated Energy Assessor role. We could develop how we mentor people away from the classroom, so trainees worked with us for six months as an apprentice before they were delivered back to Elmhurst for testing. They’d then become a Better Building Consultant and an Energy Assessor – working at a higher level than most standard Energy Assessors.

Whatever route we take, I hope our initiative and this scheme gets more people having a conversation about training, as it can only benefit our sector at a time when retrofit inquiries are likely to grow at pace. We’ve already made a positive start and I’m here for the journey.

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