Sharing my learnings on Retrofit Funding

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There’s no denying the feeling of pride and let’s face it, relief, when a funding stream comes in. My entire business is built around securing funding contracts so I know all too well the opportunities, challenges and sheer heart palpitations the process can bring along the way. This week I want to shine a light on two very interesting funding streams, the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund and Eco Fund. I’m on a complete journey of discovery at the moment when it comes to this new area for businesses, as I’m sure you are too. So, I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences to enrich my knowledge and understanding as we go. Today I want to explore the current criteria requirements needed for SHDF and Eco Fund, and discuss whether this criterion is too limiting of local businesses’ potential. I’m learning as you’re learning, so consider this an open discussion article where your feedback is encouraged. So, here’s what I’ve learnt…

Understanding the process required to access the SHDF and Eco Fund:

Taking a very top line approach here, the SHDF and Eco Fund are funding streams designed specifically for the facilitation of Retrofit works.

  • SHDF is a UK-wide scheme which will upgrade around 3.2 Million social homes currently EPC rating D or below using a fabric first retrofit approach, with energy efficient products such as floor and wall insulation, windows and doors and low carbon heating. The Government has proposed a £3.8bn Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund over a 10-year period, to improve the energy performance of social rented homes. A £62m fund was announced in 2020 followed by £160m for the first wave of the SHDF in financial year 2021/22 delivering to January 2023.
  • ECO (Energy Company Obligation) – ECO is a government efficiency scheme in Great Britain to help reduce carbon emissions and tackle fuel poverty. The scheme began in April 2013, and over time it has been amended. The ECO 3 scheme closed 31 March 2022 and the ECO 4 scheme came into force on the 27th July 2022 and will cover a 4 year period until 31st March 2026 with over £1 billion a year in funding and looking to return £224,3 million in annual savings by March 2026

Both are fantastic initiatives that by default have created demand and scope for many new and exciting jobs within Construction, far beyond the existing and traditional trades we have all been used to. This in turn is generating a real boom in employment with so many career opportunities coming to the forefront for young and ambitious individuals to join the sector and specialise in sustainability.

As a business, to install Energy Efficiency Measures (EEM’s) for the SHDF and ECO, you must hold PAS2030 and PAS2035 accreditations :

PAS 2035 and PAS 2030:2019 are Publicly Available Specifications for the installation of energy efficiency measures in existing domestic buildings. They are inextricably linked to each other, combining to take a ‘whole house’ approach to the installation process.

In order to obtain these accreditations, both primes and subs within a supply chain must demonstrate competencies for the trades and roles they intend to carry out. Alongside competencies, evidence must be given for the systems, structures, policies and procedures in place that will uphold both PAS2030 and PAS2035.

Making sense so far? Great. Because this is where it gets a little tricky…. But stick with me on this because I’m going to need your help!

First and foremost, creating space (both figuratively and literally) within your business to house the necessary systems, structures, policies and procedures which need to be evidenced isn’t too much of a headache for larger contractors or primes. This is because they are businesses who generally have the resources and time readily available to make it happen. However, following my learnings in this area over recent months, it would seem that this could be a big hurdle for the smaller subcontracting businesses within the supply chain who simply do not have the resources to create the systems and structures to uphold PAS in their business. What’s more, this isn’t a simple case of primes receiving the accreditations and subs being rejected because EVERYONE in a supply chain both the prime and subs bidding on the work must ALL have PAS2030 and PAS2035.

My question to you all at this point is, what are we going to do to better support the entire supply chain and ensure that smaller businesses HAVE the capabilities to lay the foundations for PAS2030 and PAS2035?

It’s not something that I believe we can answer simply and I welcome a far greater discussion on this topic with today’s article merely opening the door to such conversation and collaboration. So please let me know your thoughts and feedback because it’s a question I have pondered many times over recent weeks.

“Subcontractors hold the key to some of the greatest achievements we will ever make”

Secondly, when trying to unlock funding, businesses have to demonstrate competencies to carry out retrofit work.

Now, to measure or demonstrate competencies in the desired trades that SHDF or Eco Fund require, all employees or operatives planned to carry out Retrofit works must have an NVQ2. Not just key members, the entire installer team. This is an essential part of the PAS2030 and PAS2035 criteria. Seems relatively straightforward enough, HOWEVER current NVQs do not align with the new green trades that the funding has created. For example, at present there are no NVQs that will help an individual demonstrate and evidence Chasing and Pointing. The closest NVQ that is available is in Bricklaying. You can see a bit of a domino effect here, can’t you?

So, my second question to you is this, how can we demonstrate competencies that don’t exist on a current NVQ?

Thankfully this is a question I believe I am closer to finding an answer to and an area where I myself can offer considerable support through our provision of services at RE:geon Training.  If your team has an existing NVQ that is closely related to the new retrofit trade, then I am currently in the process of scoping out the feasibility of developing add-on units that we at RE:geon can facilitate.

Would you be interested?

As a business, we have a real strength in Retrofit, with our most popular course now proven to be the Route 2 Retrofit Skills Bootcamp. So, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that I, with the help of my wonderful team, can pioneer the development of modules to bolster onto existing NVQs in the near future. By bringing them closer to being able to clearly demonstrate competencies in Retrofit and addressing the current disconnect felt between NVQs and competencies. The aim? To streamline and simplify the eligibility process for businesses and enhance the quality and accuracy of the evidence submitted.

Lastly, it would seem that people who are currently employed and in work are the only individuals who can demonstrate competencies. Creating real segmentation in the market. Following my research and learnings there doesn’t appear to be anything at present deemed suitable enough to serve the unemployed market “However all the stats clearly show us the vast amount of “new entrants” needed into the retrofit sector, yet there are no qualifications which would acknowledge this training and development of retrofit skills”

I want to offer our services out once again to support the unemployed market. After all, bringing people back into the workforce is one of my greatest missions and seeing how it can change someone’s life is my biggest ‘WHY’. Although we are not in a position to offer out NVQs (yet… watch this space), RE:geon Training have a range of opportunities readily available through our Route 2 Retrofit Programme that unemployed individuals can tap into. Most notably gaining hands-on work experience in live Retrofit projects with some of the best-employers across the North East of England. This presents a great opportunity to upskill in Retrofit before an NVQ even takes place – rather than bolstering the relevant experience on afterwards. Instead, a candidate can walk into employment and the start of an NVQ with the tools and know-how already in place for how to deliver on Construction Green Skills.

So, what comes first? The NVQ or the Retrofit experience? To some this may be a chicken and egg scenario but until NVQs are developed and available to perfectly suit Retrofit trades, I hope my suggestions and offering of support through RE:geon could be a solution to better serving primes and subcontractors keen to secure their PAS accreditations.

Let me know what you think 🙂

We are on this Net Zero journey together, so sharing our ideas, opinions and learnings along the way is going to be the key to shaping a great outcome for all. As you can tell, I’m a glass half full kind of woman so although much of Net Zero remain uncertain, I believe the future is going to be incredibly bright.

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