Reaching our ambitious net zero goal is nothing short of an Everest-sized mountain. However, it’s a challenge that we must confront. Our chair, Derek Horrocks emphasises the importance of attracting, recruiting and training new talent to support our efforts in retrofit decarbonisation. By doing so we can collectively address this challenge and work towards our shared goal.
Undoubtedly, the climate crisis is and will remain the largest challenge that we face as a generation, and likely will be the same for the coming few generations. The actions we take now will drastically affect the future of our planet – and everyone living on it. This may seem daunting, but I also think it offers a nugget of hope. The momentous importance of this issue creates an opportunity for us to come together and address it collectively.
No one is able to solve this issue alone; there is no one set of shoulders strong enough to carry the burden alone. Furthermore, as well as sharing the skills and knowledge with those already working in the retrofit decarbonisation sector, we need to engage new talent so that we can expand the workforce, its output, and our ability to tackle climate change, alleviate fuel poverty, and create sustainable green jobs.
The forming of the NHDG itself illustrates there is already a consensus on this within the industry. However, the government’s recent watering down of green initiatives have given cause for concern. Confidence needs to be restored in the sector that policy will commit to and invest in training initiatives to encourage the next generation into construction, as well as support businesses who are looking to upskill their current workforce.
In essence, this will come in the form of dedicated funding toward training and accreditation programmes to further the net zero agenda. Frequent studies and reports focus on the skills across the sector, illustrating the current landscape we need to build on – with recent examples including the West Midlands Combined Authority’s Retrofit Skills Market Analysis and Green Skills Market Analysis.
With policy as one of our other core key pillars, the NHDG aims to work closely with parliament to deliver this as productively as possible. Comprehensive support and investment in skills funding will provide security, which is essential to developing a skilled workforce. Equally, it will mean that critical work can be delivered that tackles the negative impacts of excessive temperatures in homes due to climate change, making people feel more comfortable, healthier and happier in their homes.
Likewise, targeting school leavers with the opportunity for a career in construction also needs to be addressed more strategically. The announcement of the Advanced British Standard, a new qualification to replace A-Levels, is an opportunity for positive change in this respect, and one we have already seen attempted with the recent ‘T-levels.’
Here, better links between the Department for Education and the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) would be beneficial, working together to attract the younger generation in the most inclusive and hands on way.
Regarding the current workforce, we want to implement a standardised approach to accreditations that can be universally recognised as a stamp of quality on schemes. This approach will offer workers confidence that their skill and capabilities will be accurately reflected when they seek employment or secure new opportunities. Additionally, it will incentivise businesses to invest in upskilling employees or bringing on new apprentices, knowing that their investments will be worthwhile.
Earlier this year, the second phase of the Home Decarbonisation Skills Training Competition awarded £8.85 million of funding to people in the energy efficiency and building retrofit sector. While this is a positive start, achieving our net zero emissions target by 2050 requires a comprehensive industry-wide approach to training both the existing workforce and newcomers to our sector.