Making Our First Green Skills Safari A ‘Roaring’ Success.

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Last week, my wonderful team and I hosted our first Green Skills Safari Tour, in collaboration with the North East LEP, Fulwell Junior School, and the RE:GEN Group.

So, what is The Green Skills Safari all about I hear you say? Well, there’s no denying that our kids are the future. But our future depends massively on what we do now to preserve and protect it. Within Construction, the landscape is changing rapidly as we transition to more sustainable and “green ways” – and right now it’s all hands-on deck to find the skill sets to match.

The need for construction green skills

By engaging with schools at such an early stage, we have the chance to really educate on the demand for construction green skills as well as exploring the new career opportunities and pathways that are emerging as a result. Because whilst this may be new phenomena to us, green skills and the process of Retrofit will be the norm for our school children. These will be the trades they grow up around, and largely become the trades they will deem “traditional” and part of their new norm

The aim of the Green Skills Safari is therefore to engage, educate and give REAL insight into what green jobs are and how they are working to improve the lives of our local communities. Taking children, as well as their parents far beyond the classroom and into the depths of discovery. To explore live construction sites and speak to members within the industry who are actively working in these new roles. At RE:geon, we know that taking an employer led approach to training yields the greatest success. We see it first-hand every day with our training programmes so by having the opportunity to deliver this approach at a primary school level (instead of higher-level learning) was a really refreshing and rewarding experience.

Employer-led approach to training

At RE:geon, we know that taking an employer led approach to training yields the greatest success. We see it first-hand every day with our training programmes so by having the opportunity to deliver this approach at a primary school level (instead of higher-level learning) was a really refreshing and rewarding experience.

RE:GEN Group, local regeneration specialists are currently working with a range of social housing providers including Gentoo Group to carry out Retrofit works to houses across the North East, in bid to move us closer as a region to our Net Zero Targets. We’ve been working with RE:GEN Group for some time now, to deliver our employer led programmes including our new Route 2 Retrofit skills Bootcamp. So, it was excellent to have them on board.

Together, we had the pleasure of engaging 14 young children from Fulwell Junior Primary School along with their parents.

Our first Green Skills Safari Tour

So, what did we do? 

With so many new roles becoming available that never existed before, understanding the Green Agenda as well as the process of Retrofit is becoming a mandatory requirement if you want to excel in Construction and Social Housing. If we are to set up our children for success then education starts now. 

We started the safari tour with a short presentation in the Community Hall to walk the group through key topics such as Climate Change and Sustainability to set the scene for the rest of the session.

Delivered by myself and Mina Cole (Sustainability Coordinator at RE:GEN Group), we presented a series of slides to lay a baseline understanding of Climate Change and what sustainability is. Before delving into how the Construction industry specifically impacts sustainability and what we can do to “reverse and prevent the damage”

Throughout the presentation we encouraged as much participation as possible from the group to really solidify the knowledge and understanding. The children were fantastic, fully immersing themselves in the discussion and sharing some really insightful answers and ideas, particularly on the below:

(It’s our global temperature!!!)


Did you know that Construction accounts for 39% of all global emissions? With 10% of the UK’s annual GHG emissions being attributed to Construction practices?

What’s more, it’s thought that if we improve the energy efficiency of all homes, we could reduce this impact by up to 25%! So, you can see the compelling evidence stacking up for why we need to change how we do things. One of the greatest ways we can “change things” is via Retrofit.  

And so the Tour began!

Next we took the children and their parents on a safari tour around two live project sites that RE:GEN Group are currently working on in Sunderland with Gentoo and the SHDF – Whinfell and Pennywell. Both schemes include a variety of Retrofit works from external wall insulation to loft insulation, roofing, ventilation upgrades and PV solar to name but a few. All to reduce the amount of energy needed to keep the homes warm. Whinfell in particular is a scheme which requires deep retrofit to be carried out. This is the process of taking an “whole house” approach to upgrades and improvements vs just making small or select changes. This was a brilliant example to be able to show our tour attendees!

Mick McMullen (Project Manager at RE:GEN) and Tracy Rose (CEC at RE:GEN) kindly led us around the Pennywell site first before Craig Priestley (Site Manager at RE:GEN) and Gill Sweeney (CEC at RE:GEN) showed us the Retrofit ropes at Whinfell.

Let’s start with Pennywell!

The Pennywell scheme is one of the largest that Gentoo and RE:GEN as a collective have undertaken. The works are expected to be phased over the next two years, with a vision to “transform people’s lives within Pennywell” forever. Both Gentoo and RE:GEN are committed to serving their local communities. Working together to create a lasting impact and legacy for the Sunderland region. But how much do you know about Pennywell?

Did you know?

  • Pennywell is one of the UK’s largest post-war social housing schemes, and is situated in the central-west area of Sunderland.
  • Pennywell is the largest local authority housing estate in the City of Sunderland
  • There are approx.. 3000 properties on the Estate  – 1185 properties of which are owned and managed by Gentoo).
  • The Properties will receive a “Whole House” approach with regards to their Retrofitted upgrades. This includes improvements to: Roofing, Chimney, Canopies, Outhouse Roofs, Boundary works, Rooflines, Window Replacements and Painting.

What’s more, every single property has had a survey and assessment carried out to determine exactly what they need:

  • 885 Properties under Gentoo’s management will be benefitting from new Tiled Roof Coverings.
  • 880 Properties will receive new Windows.
  • 100 Properties to include Wall Tie Replacements.
  • 1185 Properties benefitting from External Decoration.
  • 1185 Properties benefitting from either new front boundaries/gates or repairs to existing.
  • 800 Properties benefitting from new Front Canopies.
  • 700 Properties benefitting from new Flat Roof Replacements.
  • Other External Repairs including paving/cleaning and isolated repairs.






Moving onto Whinfell

The Works at Whinfell are part of the Governments SHDF programme (Social housing Decarbonisation scheme). Similarly to Pennywell, Gentoo & RE:GEN are currently carrying out afull suite of works on 20no properties which include:

  • Scaffold Erection
  • Asbestos panel removal
  • Joinery, stud wall insulation and Cementitious board installation.
  • Full insulated render system (140mm Rockwool, base coats render, and silicone render)
  • Insulated roof system covered in Single ply roofing material.

There are also a number of associated tasks involved in the works including Gas boiler turn off and on for safe working and fence removal to create space for materials to be transported to and from the properties. All of which the safari was able to give real-life insight into, to build a holistic picture around what Retrofit entails as an end-to-end programme. 








So, what was the feedback?

We are delighted to say that the Green Skills Safari tour was a ‘roaring’ success! A real best in class example of what collaboration between industry and education can achieve. We spoke to several members who were involved in the planning and delivery of the day to find out what their experiences were:

“The Green Skill Safari Tour was a great opportunity to inspire and educate younger minds on the importance of our climate emergency, what they can do to make a positive change in their daily lives and the variety of construction careers/Green job roles that are available to them. It was truly gratifying to see the students so inquisitive on the topic.”

Mina Cole, Sustainability Coordinator, RE:GEN Group

“The session went really well and the children appeared to be very engaged with the session. Myself and Tracy introduced the company and explained our roles within the business and took them through the site operational works. We were very impressed with the level of questions we were asked (some very inquisitive) and it was great to see that they already had some knowledge of roles within the construction industry (some even stated what job they would like to do such as Quantity Surveying, Engineering and Demolition. One great example was we showed them our programming board (which highlights all our scheduled works / dates, and the pupils fired off a raft of questions which really proved that they were on board with the session. We come away thoroughly inspired by the whole visit and hope that the pupils also took away valuable experience. Here’s to the next generation of construction workers to the industry!”

– Mick McMullen, Project Manager, RE:GEN Group   

“It’s extremely important to educate our younger generations to understand how the construction industry is evolving and adapting respond to the climate emergency. Their current age will expose them to many changes in the world around them on the journey to Net Zero. By opening their eyes to the vast range of sustainable and local opportunities within the construction industry for both men and women from an early age – we can create a desire within them to be part of that journey which can be nurtured throughout the rest of their education.

It was fantastic to see the children so engaged –  it would be brilliant to take the children back to the same sites later on to see how the sites have progressed. Working with a range of schools across the region would give us the opportunity to inspire the minds of our future workforce in the North East!”

– Rachel McMullen, Social Value Coordinator, RE:GEN Group 

“Through our North East Ambition project, we’re working to ensure that all pupils, including those only or currently in primary education, understand future opportunities in the region and the pathways into these jobs.

“The decarbonisation of homes to achieve net zero presents a huge opportunity for construction businesses and there is an increasing demand for new skillsets and services to help make homes and buildings more sustainable.

It was fantastic to be involved in this project, connecting business with both pupils and their families. Find out more about North East Ambition at ”

– Matt Joyce, Regional Lead at North East Ambition

It’s days like this that remind me just how much we are at the forefront of changing lives and why I LOVE what we do. Our first safari tour was a huge success, and incredibly fulfilling for all involved. I want to extend my greatest thanks and gratitude to everyone at the North East LEP, RE:GEN, Fulwell Juniors and of course RE:geon who made it all possible. It’s collaborations like this, with like-minded individuals who are passionate about change that will really move mountains and bring us closer to our Net Zero goals. Better preparing our future generations for all of the wonderland experiences and opportunities that lie ahead.

We loved meeting such a curious and bright group of children. Some of whom will become the future generation leaders within Retrofit and Construction. What a truly exciting thought that is.

Our next Green Skills Safari Tour

To find out more about how you can get involved with our next Green Skills Safari Tour (whether you’re a business or a school) then please contact me >

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