Reducing the carbon emissions from how we heat our buildings should be a priority for all of us and is key to us delivering our target of carbon neutrality by 2038.  The RetrofitGM Action Plan builds on the work we have being doing as the leading green-city region.

A big part of the RetrofitGM Action Plan is how we build the skills and jobs needed to grow the supply chain in the process.

It’s a win-win-win situation: a greener economy in Greater Manchester will create and secure over 256,000 jobs across all sectors in the city-region by 2038 with 90,000 in retrofit alone, alongside reducing energy consumption and our carbon impact and most importantly, saving people money.

The current market for retrofitting in Greater Manchester is mainly catering for small-to-medium scale retrofit programmes across the social housing sector. There is a small (but growing) demand for retrofitting private homes.

The sector needs trained individuals who can develop whole house solutions connecting thermal efficiency, heating and ventilation. These are relatively new career pathways, and there are few organisations and individuals currently qualified to carry out this work.

There is a need to upskill and retrain many existing tradespeople within the construction sector to meet the expected future demand. Indeed, trained fitters and project managers will be very employable.

There are many challenges we need to address as part of the bigger retrofit picture, and this starts with the people needed to research, project manage and actually carry out installations within our homes and public buildings. 

First, we need to address the shortage of skilled trades across GM. This is estimated to be between 5,000-6,000 before any growth in retrofit activity.   Combined with an aging workforce, the sector really needs to attract younger workers who currently do not view it as an occupation of choice.  

There’s currently existing shortages and high levels of self-employment within the construction sector, there are too few employers currently offering entry level work-based apprenticeship and traineeship opportunities.

Historically the retrofit market has seen initiatives launched then withdrawn due to knee jerk reactions of lack of joined up thinking. Whilst the construction sector is mad busy at the moment there doesn’t seem to be the time or the energy to invest in what is incorrectly seen as ‘risky’ retrofit training which could go out of favour (again), which it won’t.     

The existing skills infrastructure does not support quick upscaling of relevant training, as many employers are SMEs, adding complexity for at-scale upskilling and training.

With a country focused on university degree education, there needs to be more relevant material in the existing pathways at Further and Higher Education level. Directly relevant apprenticeships in Retrofit Advisor and Assessor are still to be developed. 

We also need to include more higher skilled training opportunities which include Retrofit advisors, assessors and coordinators to project manager whole house retrofits.

Greater Manchester currently has 440 individuals and businesses registered to work on retrofit projects.  Given the full construction workforce in GM numbers around 85,000, the number of Trustmark accredited installers will need to increase substantially in the coming years to be able to deliver our plans.

In short what do we need to do?

  1. Start small and grow rapidly
  2. Develop new competencies
  3. Target professions for continual professional development
  4. Develop clearer reskilling and retraining pathways and packages for employers
  5. Develop new types of agile and flexible learning
  6. Raise the profile of construction as a green skills sector

Explaining the scale of the opportunity for young people on careers systems, like Greater Manchester Apprenticeship and Careers service, will be a crucial part of building the talent pipeline. There is a desire among young people in the region to work in a “Green” career – if positioned in the right way, the retrofit workforce will see new entrants as young people gravitate towards these “Green” careers which will make a difference.

Working with employers, we are bringing their voice closer to the skills system.  A new Retrofit Skills Hub has been established, offering courses to 1,140 people to upskill into green jobs and training to get more people working on renovation projects.

The Retrofit Skills Hub includes partners from the Low Carbon Academy, the Retrofit Academy, the Manchester College, Oldham College and Fabric CIC.  They are offering courses in Insulation / Fenestration & Building Treatments, Understanding Domestic Retrofit, Solar Panelling Systems, Heat Pump Installation and Low Carbon Workshops for Business Owners.

Our children and wider families will benefit from over 1,000 new apprenticeships on offer in Greater Manchester linked to net zero; we will also be upskilling 85,000 people currently in existing construction jobs, so they have job security and relevant skills.

By working together and doing things differently we can help address climate change, improve living standards and `level up’ by embracing the new green industrial revolution.

This is the second blog in a short series which features the work of the Retrofit Taskforce.  You can read the introduction to the GM Retrofit Taskforce here.

Read the full RetrofitGM Action here.

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