Funding the future: Retrofitting skills to revitalise the economy

By Tracey Patmore, NOCN

The UK has a unique opportunity to tackle climate change; the government has committed to reducing carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 and has set out plans for how we will achieve this.

The 2050 Low Carbon Roadmap outlines how we will achieve the target. It is a plan for how we can reduce our energy use, shift to cleaner forms of energy, and develop greener transport systems. This will require investment in new infrastructure, technologies and skills. One key area that must be addressed to achieve these goals is retrofitting existing buildings to make them more energy efficient.

Retrofitting is the process of upgrading or improving the energy efficiency, safety or functionality of an existing building, by adding new materials, technologies or systems. Retrofitting existing buildings can improve residents’ and users’ health and wellbeing by increasing the buildings’ thermal comfort and reducing energy costs. According to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), retrofitting the existing housing stock to meet the 2050 target could save households £1,400 a year on average. Furthermore, retrofitting can also improve the air quality inside the buildings, which is particularly important for vulnerable groups such as the elderly, children and those with pre-existing health conditions.

However, a significant skills gap needs to be filled to ensure that the necessary work can be carried out effectively and efficiently. But what kind of skills do we need? And how can you make yourself employable?

Retrofitting existing buildings is a complex process that requires a range of different skills, including knowledge of building construction, energy efficiency and the latest ‘green’ technologies. There is currently a shortage of skilled workers in the UK with the necessary knowledge and experience to undertake this work. This is a significant barrier to the widespread adoption of retrofitting as a means of reducing emissions and meeting climate targets.

To address this skills gap, funding for retrofit training is essential. The UK government has recognised the importance of investing in training and education programmes to prepare the workforce for the retrofit sector. In 2020, the government launched the Home Decarbonisation Skills Training competition, which aimed to fund innovative training and education programmes that help to prepare workers for the retrofit sector. The competition was launched by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Department for Education (DfE) in partnership with the National Retrofit Coordination Centre (NRCC) and the National Skills Academy for Environmental Technologies (NSAET).

The competition is part of a more comprehensive effort by the government to increase the number of skilled workers in the retrofit sector. The competition aims to develop training and education programmes that teach workers the skills they need to retrofit buildings effectively, including knowledge of the latest technologies and techniques and providing hands-on experience through apprenticeships or on-the-job training.

NOCN offers a wide range of qualifications approved for funding in retrofit, from the Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications in Retrofit Coordination to the Level 4 and Level 5 qualifications in Retrofit Coordination and Retrofit for the Built Environment. These qualifications aim to equip individuals with the knowledge and skills required to coordinate and manage retrofit projects and understand the principles and practices of retrofitting existing buildings.

Investing in retrofit training not only benefits the UK’s climate goals but also has a positive economic impact. By providing training and education, we can increase the number of skilled workers in the retrofit sector, leading to new jobs and economic growth. According to the NRCC, the retrofit sector could create around 100,000 new jobs by 2030.

It is essential for the government and industry to continue to invest in training and education if we are to meet the ambitious 2050 climate change targets.

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