At JTL, we recognise the pivotal role electricians and plumbing and heating engineers are playing during the current COVID-19 situation. Our latest campaign, ‘You’re our heroes of today, help us train the heroes of tomorrow’, celebrates the positive difference trade professionals are making by continuing to provide the nation with essential services. We spoke to Cathie Foster, Head of Marketing & Communications at JTL to find out more.
The real-life heroes
JTL acknowledges that this is a worrying time for many, so we want to do all we can to support and advise employers, including helping with the 18th edition and other training needs, as well as with apprenticeship queries. As more trade professionals return to work, we carried out a survey with our JTL employers to understand what their working life is now like.
Our survey revealed that 18% of the employers who responded were carrying on with normal work, as they are able to effectively comply with official guidelines. Tradespeople are finding new ways of operating, particularly those who are skilled to offer essential emergency services to households, which according to our survey is around 30%.
We understand people’s working days may now look completely different, yet tradespeople are still working to ensure these emergency repairs can be dealt with whilst lockdown measures continue, and for that they are our heroes.
Trade professionals have also been recognised for offering NHS workers free emergency repairs and raising money while self-quarantining or being furloughed. JTL is extremely proud that two of our very own apprentices from Interserve were part of the hardworking team of 400 engineers working a total of 86,000 hours to complete the brand-new NHS Nightingale hospital in Birmingham.
Continued business support
In terms of people’s general feeling about their work at this current time, the survey revealed that 68% of the responses were of a positive nature. This is an encouraging indication that the sector is continuing to move in the right direction.
At JTL, we believe that this is the time to be optimistic that we will pull through this pandemic, which is why we are on hand to support the future needs of our employers’ businesses. As part of our support offering, we are also on-hand to chat to employers who are keen to invest in the training and development of an apprentice, to ensure the pipeline of skilled tradespeople continues. You can visit our dedicated you’re the heroes of today, help us train the heroes of tomorrow to read more.
Minimising the threat to businesses
As the health and economic situation continues to rapidly evolve, we are more determined than ever to communicate with our employers and learners, ensuring they are coping well with changing work practises, are able to meet safety needs and are achieving business recovery.
Presently, we have moved our training online and our dedicated training officers are working remotely so apprentices experience minimal disruption to their course. We are currently in the process of creating a free online portal where installers can access free industry-related taster sessions for engaging in continued professional development (CPD) and upskilling in the sector, which is set to go live this summer.
Our survey echoes the findings of the recent Eureka! Research, which was carried out in partnership with Installer Magazine and identified the challenges faced by plumbing and heating businesses during this unprecedented time.
The main threats to businesses according to their research were:
- ‘Being able to pay their staff’
Nearly 4 in 10 business cite going out of business as a serious concern, and many were concerned they would have to lay staff off.
- ‘The risk of infection’
The research revealed that 15% of businesses in the sector reported staff having Coronavirus symptoms, and even more were suffering serious staff absenteeism.
- ‘Unable to protect staff’
Our survey echoed this concern, with some employers revealing that PPE was ‘scarce’ or ‘impossible to source’.
If these issues are affecting you and your business, or perhaps you are struggling with other personal and work-related challenges, there are support services available to you. JTL’s charity partner, the Electrical Industries Charity (EIC) offers free and confidential advice to people working in the building services industry.
The EIC recognises that people in trade may not only find their businesses being negatively impacted, but also their mental health, which is why it also provides mental health support and can facilitate telephone and skype counselling for industry members. If you’re preparing to go back to work, but are concerned about the measures which will have to be put in place to protect yourself and your workforce, you can also look to the EIC for help. Visit the free support page on our website, where you will find a range of support materials which you can share with your employees.
The new way of working
Our survey also highlighted the new methods some employers are adopting to ensure they are working safely – these included:
- Putting staff on a minimised rota to reduce footfall onsite
- Advise staff to travel by car as appose to using public transport
- Advise office staff to work from home where possible, or work for shorter hours
- Additional hand sanitiser points in workspaces
- Segregation of workers where possible, and the provision of masks where it is not.
Please refer to the latest Government advice for safe working practises, which can be found here.
About the author:
Cathie Foster is JTL’s Head of Marketing and Communications