AN army of workers skilled in green construction techniques is to be trained by Tees Valley colleges thanks to a multi-million pound investment designed to bridge a recruitment gap.

Middlesbrough College, Darlington College, and Hartlepool College, with the support of the North East Chamber of Commerce, are linking up with housing companies to tackle an issue impacting the country.

The UK Government estimates 24 million homes need a domestic retrofit to reduce energy usage. That would require decarbonising 20,000 homes a week by 2025 to ensure the 2050 targets are met.

In the North East and Yorkshire 3.4 million homes have been identified for vital energy efficiency work.

To achieve the net zero targets it is estimated the retrofit workforce would have to increase from the current 940 full time equivalents to 67,000 by 2050.

Skilled labour is urgently needed in retrofitting insulation, installing electric vehicle charging points and solar panels.

The colleges would provide much-needed face-to-face training, leading to qualifications at levels 3 to 5, on thermal fabric training rigs and mock building workplaces. Hartlepool College is looking to create a covered outdoor working area to simulate being on a construction site. Employers have also asked for training in ‘soft skills’ such as adaptability, collaboration, communications, self-management and being value-driven.

Employers involved in the Retrofitting Green Construction Skills initiative include Miller Homes, Thirteen Group, ESH Group, FPP, Green Leaf, North Star, Taylor Wimpey, North East Chamber of Commerce and Tees Valley Combined Authority.

The scheme is one of a number of projects being financed to the tune of £2.5m by the Government as part of the Local Skills Improvement Plan, which is being delivered by Darlington College. Middlesbrough College will lead the green project.

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Middlesbrough College’s assistant principal for construction and engineering Phil Blewitt said: “By partnering with Middlesbrough College, local companies are ensuring that their workforce is well-equipped to contribute to a greener and more environmentally responsible future, while also meeting the increasing market demand for energy-efficient domestic retrofitting projects.

"Together, we strive to build a skilled workforce that not only meets current industry standards but also anticipates and adapts to the evolving needs of the sustainable construction sector.”

Darlington College’s strategic projects and skills manager and LSIF project lead Alan Jones said: “Green retrofitting has been identified by construction companies as a high priority in the Tees Valley with opportunities and projects in both domestic and industrial construction companies. Within this project we aim to address the skills shortages highlighted and continue to research and refine them through discussions with employers.”

Thirteen’s net zero technology manager Wes McGeeney said: “There is a huge skills challenge around net zero, so it’s fantastic to see this investment in helping to build people’s skills, so they can access green jobs.

“Within the housing sector, there are some great opportunities to learn and ensure we have a trained workforce, which meets industry standards and ensures we can continue to deliver greener, more energy efficient homes, like we are on this retrofit investment site in Stockton.

“Developing these essential skills will help to increase the workforce that’s needed to reach net zero targets in the future.”

The project will also focus on the delivery of retrofit digital skills needed by employers in the use of industry standard software systems for building assessments.