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Carbon Co-op /

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Supported by Garfield Weston Foundation and LinkedIn
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Manchester’s Carbon Co-op has trained more than 1,000 builders to deliver home energy efficiency upgrades, tackling a major skills shortage. The co-op’s flexible and practical approach includes virtual workshops and on-site ‘toolbox talks’, while its networks help builders find projects and contracts to use their new skills. 

Carbon Co-op has trained more than 1,000 contractors

The organisation promotes a 'whole-house' approach to retrofit

After training, builders are helped to find work

"Carbon Co-op’s training is great because it’s grass roots, building networks. Not a standalone training course, somewhere for people to do the work. When I’ve learnt a new skill, I’ve been able to put it into practice."

Richard Shears, Contractor

Carbon Co-op is boosting skills, particularly through its People Powered Retrofit service, an initiative launched in 2019 that gives homeowners support through every stage of improving their home. At the heart of People Powered Retrofit is a training programme for local builders, ensuring there is a workforce ready to take on the job of upgrading Manchester’s homes. 

The training on offer includes a four-day in-depth retrofit course, two hour sessions on different aspects of eco-refurbishment, and ‘toolbox talks’ for contractors working onsite. In total, Carbon Co-op has trained 1,150 contractors. 

Knowledge passed on includes the carbon and financial savings of efficiency measures, how to create air-tight homes, and advice on insulating of walls and roofs. There’s help to navigate legal and planning issues, and advice on calculating heat loss in different situations. 

The training supports a ‘whole house approach’ where possible – by far the most efficient way of lowering carbon emissions, provided people have the resources to carry out such a project. 

Crucially, Carbon Co-op also builds networks that help newly-trained contractors put their skills into action. The People Powered Retrofit programme identifies homeowners interested in efficiency upgrades, and gives them advice from trusted and independent experts. Support includes connection to builders trained by Carbon Co-op. 

This approach strengthens local economies, and creates the conditions for a rapid rise in the number of retrofit projects. 


Putting skills into practice 

The co-op’s trainees include joiner Erol Tonguc, who says there are barriers to builders like him learning retrofit skills – but huge opportunities too. 

“I’m a general joiner and I dipped my toe into retrofit and built a business up, but lots of contractors still see it as a weird science. There’s an air of elitism that needs to be broken down. We need to normalise retrofit. A lot of contractors would be interested if it was explained in a physical sense. 

“There is a lot of retrofit work out there and I think there are contractors who are interested in moving to this industry. We need to fish them out of the general building trade and give them the right training and insight.” 

Contractor Richard Shears says: “Carbon Co-op’s training is great because it’s grass roots, building networks. Not a standalone training course,somewherefor people to do the work. When I’ve learnt a newskill,I’ve been able to put it into practice.”  


Working online and offline, in Manchester and beyond 

The coronavirus pandemic forced Carbon Co-op to grow its range of online sessions – this has provided welcome flexibility, and means training materials can be used beyond Manchester. 

Carbon Co-op works closely with Greater Manchester Combined Authority and has contributed to the Greater Manchester Low Carbon Buildings Group and Greater Manchester Retrofit Strategy. It is also creating impact beyond the city – mentoring and training organisations in Cumbria, Bristol and Devon. 


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