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Opinion Piece

National Retrofit Conference to accelerate the retrofit skills gap

Opinion piece by Derek Harrocks, founder and chair of the National Home Decarbonisation Group

With The National Retrofit Conference set to create the roadmap that will lead the retrofitting industry, Derek Horrocks, founder and chair of the National Home Decarbonisation Group, a key partner of the conference explores why we need to address the skills gap and how this event will bring the industry together and foster growth.

Taking place alongside this year’s Futurebuild event, the very first three-day National Retrofit Conference, curated by The Retrofit Academy, will bring together leading industry professionals to tackle the challenge of approaching and creating carbon neutral homes. With over 27 million UK dwellings requiring sustainable upgrades to achieve net zero by 2050, the National Retrofit Conference will stand as a yearly marker to establish how much closer we are to achieving that goal.
With delegates from local authorities, social housing providers, and construction businesses planning to attend, the National Retrofit Conference shares Futurebuild’s aim of supporting collaboration between industries. By enabling the sharing of innovation, best practice, products, and addressing challenges, the event will act as a physical space where growth can be made to improve the industry. As the very first event of its kind, the National Retrofit Conference empowers itself as the future of the industry, helping us strive for greatness that will ultimately end with our combined efforts to reach net zero.
So, why do we need to address the skills gap and how are we going to do it?

Developing the workforce
Although the National Retrofit Conference is set to take place at the London Excel on the 5 -7th March, collaboration within the industry to help advance large retrofit projects is already well underway. By already working with The Retrofit Academy – the official strategic partner to the NHDG, and leading contractors of large-scale decarbonisation programmes such as Equans, Wates, Mears and Sustainable Building Services, The Retrofit Academy – has been able to assist with resource planning by beginning to calculate the necessary labour force.
By understanding available skills and delivery metrics, The Retrofit Academy has been able to create an industry consensus on completion timescales known as Workforce Development Modelling. This means that businesses can receive a clear picture on time lengths for retrofit programmes and the number of workers required making forward planning easier.
For example, the data found that an EWI install typically takes a team of three people eight days to complete (24 days total per property). By having this knowledge, managers and decision makers can calculate how many EWI installers they need for each individual project.
Working out the number of people that are required to carry out every element of retrofit is simple. Local authorities and social housing providers working on an area based/regional model, need just subtract their available workforce capacity from the capacity that has been calculated. The remaining number will be the quantifiable deficit needing to be addressed through a combination of internal upskilling and external recruitment.
Depending on the work being carried out, the number of needed qualified professionals could potentially be extraordinarily high. With this in mind, where should businesses and local authorities turn to look for potential employees or help to upskill their workforce in their region?

Training the retrofitters
Knowing which individuals could potentially fill in open roles in retrofit can be a difficult task. To gain a clearer understanding, a Training Needs Analysis can create a framework of staff with existing skills making it clear on who can become qualified. Once identified, employers can create a tailored training programme to upskill that individual and resolve staffing issues inhouse.
Alongside boosting those already working within the industry, we must come together to enhance the appeal of a career in retrofit to outsiders.
Many councils across the country are working collaboratively, facilitated through organisations such as The West Midlands Combined Authority and The Greater South East Net Zero Hub and have been able to offer residents in their constituency the opportunity to receive either partially or fully funded retrofit courses. Not only is this an effort to create a retrofit economy within the regions but also a way to offer locals a new career option.
The Retrofit Academy, the leading workforce development partner aims to train 200,000 of the necessary 400,000 retrofitters needed to make net zero a possibility. Through its variety of courses, the organisation looks at all levels within the industry from level two awards to level five diplomas. These courses include:
• Level 2 Award in Understanding Retrofit
• Level 3 Award in Domestic Retrofit Advice
• Level 3 Award in Energy Efficiency for Older and Traditional Buildings
• Level 4 Award in Domestic Retrofit Assessment
• Level 5 Diploma in Retrofit Coordination and Risk Management
As it stands, the Retrofit Academy has successfully enrolled over 5,500 retrofit assessors and coordinators in a range of courses. Once qualified, these professionals will be able to join local authorities, construction businesses and social housing developers to help lead their sustainable efforts and make eco-friendly upgrades to their stock.

To decarbonise homes and reach net zero, collaboration within the industry is required to help one another achieve our collective goal. The National Retrofit Conference embodies this as an annual event where we can collectively share our successes and learning to improve each other into the future. Now that we have this, we can look hopeful to the future knowing that we’re one step closer to creating a decarbonised Britain.

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