Retrofitting needs to be a local skills priority to meet the demand for decarbonising homes

27 June 2024 Kate Bines

First independent analysis of Local skills improvement plans shows wide variation in green skills planning across England

Retrofitting needs to be a local skills priority to meet the demand for decarbonising homes

A new report has found significant differences in how prepared local areas are to retrofit homes to be more energy efficient. The report, based on an independent analysis of local skills improvement plans (LSIPs) explored the extent to which local areas are developing retrofit skills. These skills, which include installing insulation and heat pumps, will be crucial for meeting the UK’s net-zero targets.

Under the 2022 Skills and Post-16 Education Act, further education (FE) colleges across England must have regard to LSIPs when planning their provision. 38 LSIPs were drawn up by employer bodies across England during 2023, following widespread consultation with local businesses. The aim of LSIPs was to make local education provision more responsive to the needs of local employers.

As part of an academic study, thematic analysis was undertaken of all 38 main LSIP documents. This was supplemented with interviews with seven experts on skills policy.

The report finds that:

  • There was wide variation in the extent to which the LSIPs referenced retrofitting.
  • Many employers do not yet understand the skills required to achieve decarbonisation, and are not planning to invest in training.
  • As a result, existing widespread labour and skills shortages in the construction sector could create a bottleneck for retrofitting and other major net-zero projects.
  • In particular, some areas are likely to be better placed than others to engage with government retrofitting programmes such as the Social Housing Decarbonisation Scheme.
The next government needs a much clearer long-term strategy for decarbonising buildings: setting out the skills they will need and the quality standards to which they will hold the construction industry. The analysis of LSIPs that were drawn up in 2023 shows that employers don’t yet know the green skills in which they need to invest. This risks a postcode lottery across the country, as FE colleges may take mixed messages from the LSIPs about whether to develop new training provision.
Charlotte Ravenscroft. Author

Th report concludes that in order to meet the demand it is critical the critical that government drives the high-quality training that will be necessary to ensure the desired operational performance of retrofit.

This report has some important lessons for the next government and thinking about how to turn a national need, in this case retrofitting, into a local skills priority. Without better coordination across government, it is likely that once again investment in decarbonisation will be wasted because of a lack of investment in skills.
Daniel Sandford Smith, Director of Programmes, Gatsby Charitable Foundation

Download the full report [PDF]

Retrofitting needs to be a local skills priority to meet the demand for decarbonising homes