Lance Hitchins looks at how the company responded to a lockdown of training facilities

Our newly developed online training courses have made training on heat pumps and air conditioning more accessible than ever and reached far more engineers than previously possible.

The blended learning programme has also reduced costs for customers by 65%, saved significant ‘off-tools’ time for engineers, whilst lowering their carbon footprints by removing the need for travel, and made the courses accessible at a time to suit individual requirements of the attendees.

80% of the learning is done in the customer’s own time through an online portal and this learning is followed by virtual workshops which are delivered in 2 hours.

This blended learning approach has increased the volume of attendees on any course from 12 to 90 and increased delivery efficiency by over 800%.

Over 2,000 people have attended courses since the first pilot was launched in July 2020 and there has been fantastic feedback from them with an amazing 99% saying that they would recommend the training to others.

In survey after survey, our trainers have been praised for making the course so accessible, clear and easy to understand.

We believe that we are now market leader with our blended learning offering

Lance Hitchins Lance Hitchins Head of Training

A new approach

Finding ways to effectively continue improving the skills of HVAC professionals during the COVID pandemic became an urgent requirement once national lockdowns started in Spring 2020.

This is vital for existing HVAC engineers, who still need training on new equipment and ongoing compliance with F–Gas.

It is also hugely important for the industry if it is to respond effectively to the challenge of increasing the use of renewable heating systems such as air source heat pumps. To do this, we need to find much better ways of engaging with heating engineers to give them the skills to replace antiquated and carbon-intensive gas and oil heating.

Like all manufacturers, Mitsubishi Electric had to stop all training due to COVID-19 restrictions, primarily to safeguard its staff and customers from the deadly pandemic.

All training at our seven training facilities across the UK were stopped with immediate effect and this resulted in a waiting list which exceeded 1500 people.

Our training team set about finding new ways to engage with engineers. A variety of online platforms was explored and video and audio equipment was sourced to enable a programme of online training to be developed.

By the beginning of July 2020, a pilot was launched and this has been refined and reworked so that today, the company is able to offer courses to up to 90 people at a time.

Following the pilot, a further 2 programmes were developed using this method whilst we integrated our new online platform. During this time, we were able to train 701 customers up until the month of November.

In December 2020 we launched the new blended learning approach which has enabled us to deliver to even more customers in a shorter timescale. At the time of this Award entry, we have trained 2,090 customers since last July.

The old model

Classroom-based learning programme across seven different sites:

  • Delivered to up to 12 people per day in a full day classroom. Overhead costs included lunches, trainer travel, printing and stationary
  • Large carbon footprint for customers travelling to training centre – approx. 2,500 engineers in the 3 years prior to COVID
  • No back up plan if the trainer was sick or stuck in traffic
  • Costs for training was between £110 and £145. Customers had additional expenses with hotels, travel and time off work
  • Heavy admin tasks for coordinator (printing, certificate production stationary orders / lunches)

The new model

Blended learning programmes

  • 80% of the learning is done in the customer’s own time through an online portal
  • Virtual workshops are delivered for 2 hours
  • Increased volume of attendees from 12 to 90
  • Increased delivery efficiency by over 800%
  • Reduced costs for customers saving them 66% of the original course costs (now £50 plus VAT)
  • Downloadable literature available for printing or to have on their devices
  • Online engagement tool starts when they sign up and gives us a portal to advise of new learning programmes and engage with ongoing feedback
  • Ability to offer a wider course range as more of the trainers’ time is spent in development
  • Capability to cater for large groups and offer bespoke courses

No more backlog

Prior to the pandemic, our backlog for training was almost 12-months on the most popular courses.

Today, wait times are virtually non-existent, there is almost no limit on capacity, course costs and time have been reduced for both customers and the company – AND the carbon savings have been phenomenal.  

At the time of writing this blog, 2,090 people have attended the training since last July and additional new courses are planned over the coming months.

How does it work?

We front load a series of engaging online training activities for engineers to complete over a set period before they attend a live interactive workshop with our training team.

Throughout the course they can ask questions and leave feedback on each part, using our virtual chat function and during the live workshop they are able to ask questions directly to the trainers.

The workshop is made up of tutorials and a live camera feed into our flagship training centre at our Hatfield HQ.

Upon successful completion of the course engineers can download their completion certificate and continue to engage with us through our online portal.

For us as training providers, another important aspect is the ability to collect and review feedback from our customers and quickly resolve issues with material, or even make changes based on the feedback.

We believe that we are now the market leader in the HVAC industry with our blended learning offering.

Available courses

This blended learning approach has been applied to the following courses:

  • Air conditioning – City Multi VRF Design & Application Course
  • Air conditioning – City Multi Installation and Commissioning Course
  • Air conditioning – City Multi Monitor Tool
  • Air conditioning – City Multi service and fault finding
  • Heat pumps – Ecodan Part 1 - Design & Application
  • Heat pumps – Ecodan Part 2 - Installation & Commissioning
  • Heat pumps – Ecodan service and fault finding

We are also launching new courses in the coming months on the following:

  • Air conditioning – Hybrid VRF
  • Air conditioning – Splits
  • Heat pumps – Ecodan reskill for previously trained customers – giving them an up to date refresher to our latest product range and design and delivery specifications
  • Ventilation – Lossnay MVHR (Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery)

And another benefit!

On a recent training course the group was asked about the mileage that that would have travelled if they had to physical attend the training.

From the 26 replies a total of 7,976 miles (round trips) would have been travelled. The highest mileage was 473 and the lowest was 12 miles each way so the range is quite big. The average distance travelled is 307 miles (round trip).

If we were to do this as a total over the 2,090 people trained, this would amount to 641,630 miles that haven’t been travelled.

The distance to the Moon is only 238,900 miles and based on timings even travelling at 70mph the whole way this accounts for 9,166 hours of saved travel time which is 383 days

… and saved a huge amount of carbon emissions.

Lance Hitchins is Head of Training at Mitsubishi Electric UK & Ireland Branch