New retrofit policy briefing released

An urgent retrofit skills revolution must be locally led and nationally funded

News

Posted By:

Sue Wheat

Press Lead

We will not be able to tackle the energy crisis and climate emergency without making the UK’s buildings more energy efficient – starting now. Ashden’s new policy briefing: Practical steps for a locally driven retrofit skills revolution shows how local authorities can lead the way with the right support from national government. 

Ashden believe that a localised approach should be at the heart of retrofit skills development. This briefing highlights actions for local and national government to help achieve the target of retrofitting over 19 million homes by 2035. It draws on practical examples from Ashden’s work in the UK to accelerate transformative climate solutions. 

The retrofit skills briefing calls for: 

  • A long term national retrofit strategy to provide certainty to education providers and construction employers 
  • A localised approach to retrofit skills training that learns from, and replicates retrofit success stories around the country 
  • Changes to the ways that construction apprenticeships are run to include retrofit skills training 

The briefing highlights the fact that thousands of people need to be trained in retrofitting techniques, such as installing high quality wall, floor and roof insulation and smart renewable energy systems. Yet, no detailed national skills plan to make our homes fit for the future, or the funding to finance it, was announced in last week’s mini-budget.  

Current forecasts show that we will fall far short of training the estimated 400,000 retrofit professionals required to achieve this. 

 

B4Box, a construction training provider and employer in Stockport, United Kingdom. (Picture by Andy Aitchison / Ashden)

These include Low Carbon Academy’s work to upskill workers in the construction industry in Greater Manchester, Portsmouth City Council’s ambitious partnership to create a NetZero Training Hub, and Devon County Council and Essex County Council’s work with the Retrofit Academy, to deliver programmes designed to kick-start the development of a competent retrofit workforce in each county. 

The briefing sets out practical steps that local authorities can take now including: short term action to train handyperson teams so that they can make council homes warmer this winter; using the spending power of the council’s own retrofit programme to encourage suppliers to train staff; and convening local building firms and renewables installers with education providers to agree a retrofit skills development plan and potential joint funding bids. 

Cara Jenkinson, Ashden’s Cities Manager and briefing co-author, says: “If the country wants to move to be zero carbon in the next few years, it’s essential we learn from what’s already working in terms of retrofit success stories and that local authorities, businesses and colleges work together on a rapid skills training programme.”  

 

The briefing also calls for action to make it easier for more small building firms to take on apprentices, taking inspiration from B4Box, an Ashden Awards finalist, who work with Stockport Homes Group in an area badly affected by fuel poverty, to make homes more energy efficient and create good green jobs.  

Michael Dickinson, director at B4Box, says: “Traditionally, apprenticeships have learnt just one skill – carpentry, plastering, plumbing for instance – but we teach our apprentices a range of skills which means they are much more adaptable and productive on-site. This provides huge benefits to us as an employer, but more importantly each apprentice acquires a larger skill-set which helps their career prospects. Acquiring multi-trade skills will help speed up construction processes too, which is what the country urgently needs.” 

Conclusions from the briefing show that it is essential that councils set out long term retrofit plans to instil confidence within local supply chains and education providers of the future jobs that retrofit will guarantee in the coming years.   

Existing government funded schemes, such as the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, provide an initial pipeline of work but represent less than 5% of the funding needed to decarbonise social housing.  

“Much more policy certainty from national government is needed, including financial incentives, regulation, public engagement and a major programme of investment,” says co-author Matthew Ahluwalia. “The biggest obstacle to rolling out a national decarbonisation programme is that building companies have previously invested significant time and money, only to have the schemes retracted by government after a few months.”  

Practical steps for a locally driven retrofit skills revolution draws on insights from Ashden’s awards process – a rigorous annual search for pioneering climate innovation – as well as over 40 case studies of council climate action prepared with Friends of the Earth. It is also informed by the experiences and views of councils in Ashden’s regional local authority learning networks, and their partnership work with organisations such as the UK Green Building Council, London South Bank University and Nationwide Building Society. 

Read the briefing here: Retrofit: solving the skills crisis – Ashden 

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