Retrofitting the UK’s housing stock will help to tackle three of the biggest issues we currently face as a nation, namely the climate crisis, the cost of living, and our energy security.
Previous attempts to stimulate the uptake of measures in the retrofit sector, such as the Green Homes Grant most recently, have shown that despite funding being available .. if a skilled workforce is not in place, then uptake will be low because the consumers’ retrofit ‘journey’ will be negatively affected.
It is a challenging task that lies ahead, and the Greater South-East Net Zero Hub (GSENZH) commissioned Energy Systems Catapult, in partnership with Parity Projects and LCP Delta, to undertake a domestic energy efficiency skills sector assessment. The aim was to help understand the current state of the sector and identify where support is needed to decarbonise domestic properties in line with the Government’s 2050 Net Zero target across the Greater South-East region.
This report acts as a summary of the key findings from the assessment and lists the headline recommendations for action over the next 5 to 10 years.
Through our analysis of the research, through interviews and workshops with representatives from the retrofit and educational sectors, we have identified barriers across three key areas: Curricula, Demand and Tutors & Training facilities.
Barriers – Curricula
Domestic retrofit is still in its infancy so qualifications and training courses need continual need updating and improving.
Knowledge and skills gaps in the customer engagement/care field are not covered by existing IfATE standards.
No training exists for retrofit evaluation, which is key to ensuring positive customer outcomes.
Benchmarking the quality of training provision is challenging.
Very limited ‘bolt-on’ retrofit training courses for general builders.
Barriers – Demand
Lack of policy and regulatory clarity on low carbon technology has a knock-on effect on demand for courses.
Despite clear need to grow skills based on Net Zero targets, training providers still face difficulties in filling training places that are “no cost” or heavily subsidised.
To support Net Zero targets, the workforce will need to change substantially in terms of size, average age and skill, which would benefit from building a more diverse workforce.
There is a shortage of applicants for low carbon roles, due to a UK job market currently oversaturated with jobs and other sectors offering higher incomes.
School leavers do not see ‘trades’ or retrofit roles as ‘green’ jobs.
The career pathways are often unclear for low carbon roles.
Barriers – Tutors & Training
Shortage of skilled tutors and an urgent need to ‘train the trainers’.
Gap between the salaries in the education sector and the industry.
Minimal uptake of fully subsidised upskilling courses for existing tutors at FE colleges.
FE college “simulated environments” for training were most often too far from real conditions to be able to effectively consider a whole building approach.
Recommendations – Curricula
Build consensus to create a coordinated national approach to training, focused on better integration and customer outcomes.
Work with industry experts, employers and IfATE to:
Update and improve standards for “new occupations” such as retrofit assessors, advisors, or designers, based on learning from innovation projects.
Build ‘retrofit specific’ modules into existing general construction qualifications and courses.
Investigate opportunities for funding to develop a “Skills Accelerator” for:
Development of learning material, using insights and data available from innovation projects.
Creation of a free-to-access learning portal with clear resources to suit trainees’ needs and that can be accessed flexibly.
Pilot courses (online, face to face or hybrid).
Collaborate with DfE to evolve the Skills Bootcamps to include more time and budget for the development of the learning resource.
Raise quality of training schemes through joined-up approach linking customer outcomes with training courses undertaken by workforce. Rigorous and accurate evaluation of retrofit measures will be required to enable this.
Recommendations – Demand
Deliver awareness campaigns through social media, advertising, secondary schools etc to:
Emphasise retrofit’s ‘green’ credentials and the environmental impact.
Highlight a clear career pathway and potential for professional development.
Increase general public awareness.
Build diversity by incentivising and communicate benefits of a more diverse workforce.
Carry out more detailed modelling of local areas so that Local Area Energy Plans can be drawn up with clear routes to decarbonising homes.
Need long-term commitment to funding of decarbonisation measures by Government.
Incentivise high levels of ‘retrofit-specific’ qualifications through procurement process for decarbonisation schemes.
Recommendations – Tutors & Training
Develop relationships between industry experts, independent training providers and existing college educators to encourage knowledge transfer of best practice.
Promote alternative ways of teaching and learning (see best practice by organisations such as Heat Geek) such as: Online or peer-to-peer support.
Coordinate advice to FE/HE colleges on training facility and retrofit course needs.
Instigate a more joined-up approach between colleges to share best practice and avoid duplication.
Modernising learning facilities should be considered (also part of a Skills Accelerator), starting with a benchmark study identifying the best-in-class facilities in the UK, study of the Learning Factory concept and adaptation to the retrofit sector, development (or upgrade) of a pilot facility used initially for training the trainers.
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