Interview with Dan Stefanica, Head of Projects at European Heat Pump Association and leader of the Heat Pumps Skills Competency & Excellence Framework for HP4ALL

What are the skills and competencies needed in the HP sector?

                Firstly, it is important to separate and highlight the similarities and differences between skills and competencies. Simply put, skills describe what type of job an individual can perform (e.g. install a heat pump) and competencies show us how an individual uses these skills and combines them with knowledge and abilities to perform a task successfully (e.g. how do they relate to the customer that has the heat pump installed). In terms of skills, a few that can be highlighted, are of course the technical ones that are present all along the value chain (from designers to installers), as well as their improvement and adaptation over time due to various factors (e.g. technology, customer preferences). In terms of competencies, they are the same as any other successful enterprise, some being: teamwork and efficient organisation of resources, problem solving and perseverance, effective communication, commercial awareness (how the company works) and a solid motivation to get things right and assure the long-term efficient working of the Heat Pump.

Why is it important to define a competency framework?

                Competency frameworks are used in many fields and industries and take advantage of the previously described competencies (the skills, behaviours and attitudes) that are needed in each team, department and sector. As such, each role has a certain set of competencies that are needed to optimally perform the required tasks (e.g. a Heat Pump designer will have a different set of competencies from a Heat Pump salesperson or installer).

But then, how do you define and assess what competencies are needed and if the staff has them? That is where you would need a standardised approach, that is clear, adaptable and leads to the success of the organisation and sector. This standardised approach is defined as a competency framework and, as you can imagine, it needs a lot of data from different stakeholders (e.g. the personnel doing the work, training providers) to be as effective as possible.

Though complicated and time consuming, the framework is very useful and adaptable, while in designing it, one must take into account four separate stages. The first one is defining the purpose of the framework (e.g. to facilitate the mass deployment of Heat Pumps or the upskilling of workers to transition from installing fossil fuel boilers to installing Heat Pumps) and then assemble a team (in this case the project partners) that has a holistic view of the sector. The second step is to collect information (e.g. surveys, interviews) from the relevant stakeholders. After the information is collected, it needs to be analysed and validated, with the final step, being its implementation and potential adaptation to diverse National and European requirements.

  How have recent events influenced these?

                I think that the recent health crisis has influenced in some way all areas, including training, up-skilling and re-skilling and highlighted the need for lifelong learning and flexibility. Core competencies, such as problems solving, organisation/management of resources combined with the emphasis on digital skills and digital learning, and logistics proved to be quite important. While equally and maybe even more important, was the way that the sector has adapted to serve its customers, as efficiently as possible given the conditions under which it found itself.