Climate solutions charity Ashden is calling for a revolution in green skills training in response to the UK government’s announcement today that it has scrapped its flagship green homes grant scheme.
While the announcement of the ending of the green homes grant comes as a body blow to all involved in the UK’s retrofit industry, the government can still take action to create thousands of local green jobs around the UK.
Politicians must commit to long term tailored investment in green skills. If they do not, the UK will not achieve zero carbon by 2050, and many workers will face a precarious future, ill-equipped to meet the demands of tomorrow’s job market.
In Autumn 2020 Ashden consulted 20 experts across the low carbon heat and retrofit sector about this issue and launched a green skills award to uncover best practice across the UK. Insights from the consultation feature in a new Ashden report published tomorrow, Green skills: training UK workers for tomorrow’s job market, which will confirm that funding for green skills training is too low, too short-term, and not local enough.
The government has legal commitments to meet zero carbon – this is not a choice,” says Ashden CEO Harriet Lamb. “But the stop-start history of its commitment to providing grants for making homes more energy efficient is undermining confidence within the industry. Companies that have taken on the retrofit challenge are scared of entering the market when the government has pulled the rug out from under their feet too many times. The government has created a self-fulfilling prophesy of failure. It is crucial they turn this around through a long term, stable policy including investing in training.”
The retrofit skills gap
A massive gap exists between the UK’s current capacity to retrofit homes and install heat pumps, and the sheer volume of work needed if we are to achieve net zero by 2050.
- There are only 950 heat pump installers accredited by MCS – the UK’s standards body in this area – compared to 96,000 installers of fossil fuel systems, primarily gas boilers. Government expects 600,000 heat pumps to be installed each year by 2028, so there is a need for rapid re-training of workers.
- Only around 1300 installers are certified through Trustmark to undertake Green Homes Grant work. But the Government had anticipated 600,000 homes being retrofitted through the scheme each year.
- There are just 500 retrofit coordinators.
- Compounding this issue, fewer than 10 of the UK’s 192 further education colleges deliver retrofit and low carbon heat training – reflecting the severe lack of trained instructors in this area.
Long term and consistent investment will address the current ‘on-off funding’ problem that discourages training colleges companies and workers from embracing green skills.
Innovators around the UK are offering practical routes into the sector and building demand for trainee job opportunities in retrofit and low-carbon heat. Examples of best practice include:
- Retrofit Academy accelerating retrofit co-ordinator training nationwide – the organisation is currently working with 800 trainees.
- The Ground Source Heat Pump Association (GSHPA) and Chartered Institute for Plumbing and Engineering (CIPHE) creating new training to be accredited by City & Guilds, working in tandem with manufacturers.
- Carbon Co-op in Manchester training over 200 installers and working closely with Greater Manchester Combined Authority to scale up its work.
- Warmworks, a fuel poverty initiative in Scotland, creating over 100 apprenticeships and uses SMEs in its supply chain.
“There is a massive opportunity for the government to fill these capacity gaps, create thousands of new jobs, and build back better– by launching a green workforce of newly trained and re-trained tradespeople,” says Harriet Lamb. “It is right to direct money via local authorities, and towards those less able to pay. But even that will need people who are trained green installers. The government needs to be proactive, this cannot happen by magic.”