Dirk-Slagmulder

Dirk Slagmulder: “Technical competence testing is far from being an industry standard”

UK: Contractors say there is a scarcity of qualified engineers but only just over half carry out technical competence tests as part of their recruitment process. 

The figures are revealed in a new survey by Daikin UK, conducted amongst its contractor customers ahead of the opening of the air conditioning supplier’s new technology and training centre in Woking.

Speaking at the official opening of the new facility, UK md Dirk Slagmulder revealed that skills shortages and competition from cowboy competitors remain as the two biggest challenges to air conditioning and heating contractors today.

“The enormous importance of adequate training and “cowboy” competition are seen as biggest challenges today amongst hvac installers, even ahead of recruitment and even ahead of business growth,” he told guests at the company’s new training facility.

The survey amongst Daikin’s contractor customers revealed that over 83% of HVAC companies are finding it very difficult to hire suitably qualified engineers but only just over half are including technical competence tests in their recruitment process.

“Technical competence testing is far from being an industry standard,” revealed Dirk Slagmulder. “We see that only 57% of companies include technical competence tests in their recruitment process, which is a fairly frightening number if you ask me. And what is even more worrying is that 41% of the companies say that the pass rate for these tests is 50%.”

Daikin UK’s md also revealed that while 93% of the companies surveyed said they either encouraged or made it compulsory for installers to attend regular training courses, 38% had no budget for training.

“They recognise the need but the execution is falling short,” observed Slagmulder.

Indeed, it appears that more are relying on manufacturers to fulfil their training needs: 99% of survey respondents said manufacturers product training was useful or very useful. 60% wanted training in the latest software tools, with 53% also requiring theoretical training too. A majority of companies preferred ‘hands on tools’ training over and above online or classroom-based training.

With feedback from the survey being used as the basis for much of the air conditioning suppliers training offering, Dirk Slagmulder said, “We want to play a leading role. Not because we are altruistic people, because it does cost a lot of money, but as I said before we feel it is a must to boost overall quality in the industry. It is a must for us to have happy end customers because if that design fails, if that installation fails, you may have the best product in the world but the end customer will still be unhappy. We are also convinced it will create loyalty towards our installer base and hopefully boost re-buying behaviour.”