‘Pitiful’ progress made towards retrofit skills target

A leading industry advocate has called for a national retrofit body to be established after “pitiful” figures showed the UK has less than 2 per cent of the skilled workers it needs for a residential energy-efficiency drive.

A report published by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) this week revealed that 506 TrustMark-registered retrofit coordinators were in place in the third quarter of 2022. Although the study described this as “a positive increase”, it stands against a target of having 30,000 in place by 2028.

Retrofit coordinators assess homes and advise people on energy-efficiency opportunities, as well as linking them up with firms to deliver works.

Federation of Master Builders chief executive Brian Berry told Construction News that the number was “pitiful”, and called for government action.

“It is a chicken-and-egg discussion that has been going on for some time,” he said. “There are not enough people to do this work because there isn’t demand.

“We are missing the political will and vision to treat our 28 million homes as a national infrastructure project. Transforming our homes to make them energy-efficient is a major project that will take years – possibly decades. The scale of the challenge is so big that you need long-term thinking and coordination.

“The government could create a national retrofit hub as a delivery vehicle to work with industry to roll out a delivery plan. A form of incentive is also required for owner-occupiers, beyond the cost of energy bills and a limited amount of vouchers to replace gas boilers.”

Marcus Bennett, head of industry analysis and forecasting at the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), said its research had found that an additional 266,000 construction workers were required to meet labour needs over the next five years.

“This demonstrates that the industry in many areas, both geographically and in skillset, isn’t currently ready to deliver retrofit at scale,” he said. “The challenge is significant, and while there are pockets of excellence across the UK already working to make public buildings net-zero compliant, the sector cannot train people until the demand for the work exists.

“The industry requires a clear future pipeline of national and local work to ensure the energy-efficient insulation and heating of homes to help address the current energy crisis and achieve net zero across construction and the built environment.”

The CITB has accredited a number of courses in green skills and modern methods of construction, Bennett added.

The Royal Institute of British Architects earlier this week made its own call for a national retrofit strategy, with president Simon Allford saying it was “essential for the nation to both cut energy bills and reduce carbon emissions”.

The CLC said it was “clear that accelerated progress is needed” to have 30,000 TrustMark-accredited retrofit coordinators by 2028. The target was set out in the body’s Construct Zero performance framework, which it described as the industry’s response to the government’s 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution.

Leave a comment