After enormous success in securing £800,000 from the Department for Education in the autumn of 2022 as part of the Strategic Development Fund, the West Yorkshire Consortium of Colleges (WYCC) has been working with colleges to expand their retrofit course provision and develop the skills of the future.
But what exactly is retrofit? The Centre for Sustainable Energy defines retrofit as ‘any improvement work on an existing building to improve its energy efficiency, making them easier to heat, able to retain that heat for longer and replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy.’
In February 2023, at Castleford College, representatives and teaching staff of partner colleges met to share learning, experience, knowledge, and support for the ‘rolling out’ of the retrofit courses. Calderdale College, Leeds College of Building and Heart of Yorkshire met for a day of facility tours, interactive presentations on progress and ideas, and a forum to share best practice.
Beginning the day with a presentation from Clair Kerry, project manager at the WYCC, Clair described the day as a fantastic opportunity to meet in person because most project meetings had taken place online so far. She described that the reactive nature of this project has been rewarding and it was great to see the capital investment on class re-fits, software and equipment being put to good use.
Clair said, “Recognising the skills challenges that exist within the construction and housing sectors in relation to decarbonisation, the trio of colleges brought together through this collaborative group are aligning retrofit knowledge and techniques into the necessary areas of teaching.”
Examples of capital investment include the purpose-built room and mobile rigs that Castleford College have purchased to deliver retrofit teaching and courses.
Attendees from Calderdale College said that the impact of the retrofit courses has gone further than training and the classroom. This has transpired in Calderdale College being given £5.5 million of government funding, and contributing £2 million, to refurbish their buildings. This is part of their wider aim to achieve a Net Zero operation by 2038.
The day started with a tour of Castleford College’s campus, specifically their construction facilities where the retrofit training is being provided. Situated amongst other construction courses it frames the new courses as central to the construction provision, making retrofit as vital as plumbing, bricklaying, joinery, and electricals.
Colleges were then invited to share knowledge and practice through a series of presentations.
Leeds College of Building presented on the tutorials and courses they were delivering to staff on the theory and practice of retrofitting. Understandings the practice, terminology, and importance of considering retrofitting at all stages of construction.
The day also included an interactive element where attendees were invited to test their own knowledge. The group learned that 27 million homes are targeted to be retrofitted by 2050, and there are financial, environmental and health benefits to retrofitting.
Andy Whitehead from Leeds College of Building said "With an estimated 27 million homes requiring retrofitting nationally, we are focused on working as a partnership wherever possible to ensure that our staff and students are as well-equipped as they can be to increase capacity and capability in this field. This project supports innovation, delivery and helps partner colleges to communicate and interact."
Now, the retrofit course developed by Leeds College of Building will be offered to staff from participant colleges over a four-week period. This will be a significant milestone in the project, and will help to disseminate and cascade the knowledge among the colleges.
After a successful event Clair said, “By working together to embed ‘sustainable retrofit’ colleges can implement competency changes into the curriculum that will create more resilient workforces and contribute positively to the future workforce required to meet the retrofit challenge.”
This retrofit investment is part of WYCC’s Strategic Development Fund project which also includes: