Review of 2022

December 20, 2022

Fiona Hodgson, SNIPEF Chief Executive

2022 has certainly been a memorable and eventful year on a personal and professional level. As we prepare for Christmas and welcome in 2023, I wanted to reflect and share with you some of the highlights I will take away from 2022 and consider areas of concern I have for our sector in 2023.

Highlights of 2022

Launched in August by the Construction Industry Collective Voice, SNIPEF, alongside other key associations and institutions, staged the first Green Homes Festival at the world-famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The five-day event was aimed at consumers and showcased the importance of the construction industry in achieving the nation's Net Zero ambitions. Our own SNIPEF Member Barry Sharp and SNIPEF's Technical Manager, Martyn Raine, presented "demystifying heat pumps" to a packed house explaining the technology and how it is a significant player in helping to reduce our carbon footprint.

Not only does our sector have an essential role in achieving future Net Zero targets, but it’s also critical in keeping our population healthy through the installation, maintenance and upgrade of water and heat infrastructure. Never more has this been tested as in recent weeks during the recent cold spell which hit the UK. How many times did I hear "My heating is broken" or "I have a burst pipe" and all too often "I can't get a plumber"? However, it is more than just the public who find it hard to get qualified plumbers. More recently, our Members have had similar issues due to a severe skills shortage.

The number of apprentices entering the profession reduced significantly following the banking recession of 2008, Brexit and the pandemic, exacerbating the sector's skills shortage due to an ageing workforce. I am, therefore, delighted to see plumbing apprenticeships are higher than in recent years and, while not at levels seen pre-2008, are moving in the right direction. This increase demonstrates continuing resilience in our sector and the popularity of plumbing as a career choice for many. Moving forward, we must encourage more people to enter the profession and upskill those already here so that the sector can meet demand today and in the future.

I would also like to give a shout-out to Connor Cruden from Cowie Plumbing and Heating, who was awarded the Medallion for Excellence at this year's WorldSkills plumbing contest in Germany. Connor won his place in the international competition as an apprentice when he became the SkillPLUMB champion in 2019.

  • Keeping busy: A sector in demand

Although recent times have been challenging, the need for plumbers and heating engineers has steadily grown throughout 2022. The demand for plumbers remains high and reinforces my calls to government to ensure we have a continuing supply of future plumbers to keep our water and heating infrastructure fit for purpose.


  • Economic uncertainty grows

Global and national issues have led to inflationary levels not seen in forty years. With the Bank of England and the government now introducing strict fiscal measures to curb inflation, this will undoubtedly impact commercial and domestic spending, which could dampen activity, increase prices, and reduce sector growth. 

  • The growing skills shortage

As I recently highlighted in my response to the Scottish Budget, governments must prioritise the skills development of those required to realise national Net Zero targets. It remains critical that apprenticeship funding is focused towards developing the essential high-quality skills of our next generation of plumbers and heating engineers, as well as upskilling the current workforce in areas such as heat pumps.

  • Cost of Living Crisis

The growing cost-of-living crisis looks certain to remain for the foreseeable future. With budgets being squeezed, I am concerned that people may resort to using unskilled plumbing operatives. I will continue campaigning to the public only to use SNIPEF Members to ensure the quality of service and professionalism.

Looking forward to 2023

Finally, 2023 will be a significant year for SNIPEF as it celebrates its centenary. We will announce several national and local initiatives shortly, reflecting on the last one hundred years and highlighting our plans as we move beyond 100.

I wish you all the best for Christmas and look forward to seeing you in 2023.

Fiona Hodgson
Chief Executive

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