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The Role of the GCAP and the Exeter Future Skills Centre

The Green Construction Advisory Panel (GCAP) and the Exeter Future Skills Centre are at the forefront of a pivotal transformation in the UK’s construction and retrofit sectors. This transformation is about adopting new technologies and equipping a workforce capable of driving the UK towards its ambitious net-zero targets by 2030.

What is the GCAP?

The Green Construction Advisory Panel (GCAP) plays a critical role in shaping the future of sustainable construction in the UK. As a key influencer in developing and implementing green building standards, GCAP advocates for eco-friendly materials, innovative sustainable design, and construction techniques that align with national and regional environmental targets.

GCAP’s influence extends beyond mere advisory; it actively shapes policies and practices in the construction sector. By promoting a fabric-first approach, GCAP ensures that sustainability is not an afterthought but a fundamental principle in construction projects. This approach prioritises using sustainable materials and energy-efficient design.

GCAP’s partnership with the Exeter Future Skills Centre is a testament to its commitment to the practical application of its policies. Through this collaboration, GCAP ensures that the training and development of skills are directly aligned with the latest sustainable practices and technologies. This alignment is crucial for ensuring the workforce is skilled and prepared to implement and advocate for sustainable construction methodologies.

Exeter Future Skills Centre

The Exeter Future Skills Centre represents a significant stride in preparing the workforce for the green economy. It’s not just a training facility. It’s a comprehensive ecosystem designed to foster the development of critical skills needed in the construction and retrofit sectors. With its steel frame superstructure, screened facades, scaffolding, and three mock “assets,” the Centre is a testament to innovative learning environments.

The centre’s approach is divided into two strategic phases:

  1. Phase One (Up to £150k): This phase focuses on developing a comprehensive retrofit skills plan tailored to the local needs by assessing current capabilities and identifying skill gaps. The centre’s collaboration with local educational institutions and industry leaders is crucial in gathering the insights needed for this plan.
  2. Phase Two (Up to £800k): Upon successful planning, this phase involves implementing the identified measures. The Centre is ready to lead this phase with its established training programs. The programmes begin with critical skills like solid wall insulation installation and heat pump maintenance. This phase aims to enhance local capabilities and translate educational achievements into practical outcomes in the community.

Bridging skill gaps

The Exeter Retrofit Skills Centre addresses the urgent need for over 10,000 solid wall insulation installers by 2028 and more than 17,500 heat pump engineers by 2027. Its strategic positioning within the DESNEZ proposal for Local Net Zero Hubs ensures it is a vital coordination point. It brings together local authorities, housing providers, businesses, and training providers.

The Centre’s programs are meticulously designed to provide bespoke solutions. They focus particularly on the unique challenges faced in delivering government-funded retrofit schemes. These include the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF) and Home Upgrade Grant (HUG). Focusing on these areas ensures the Centre’s training programs are relevant and urgently needed.

Collaborative efforts and multi-skilled development

The Centre is dedicated to fostering improved collaboration across various sectors by building upon existing Local Skills Improvement Plans, supporting SME growth, and developing targeted campaigns to re-engage a broad spectrum of stakeholders. This holistic approach ensures that future steps in developing the supply chain are well-supported by strategic insights.

A unique aspect of the Centre’s approach is its focus on multi-skills development. The centre prepares trainees for a sector where technical disciplines are increasingly interconnected. Trainees are encouraged to develop skills across insulation and solar energy fields.

Specialised training and economic benefits

The Centre offers specialised training in heat pumps. This includes F-Gas regulations, Daikin standard installations, and comprehensive retrofitting courses. This supports the urgent need for new heat pump engineers and aligns with DESNEZ’s objectives to combat unemployment through skills training.

By providing clear pathways to employment and addressing the skills gap in the retrofit sector, the Centre contributes substantial economic benefits. It has potential contributions of £21.7 billion in GVA by 2050.

EWI Pro’s role and contribution

EWI Pro’s involvement significantly influences sustainable construction policies and practices. We are committed to providing the necessary materials for the classes and courses. Upskilling the potential workforce and raising awareness about the benefits of the retrofit industry is crucial.

The Centre’s training equips local workers with essential skills in high demand within the green economy. By developing a skilled workforce capable of implementing energy-efficient and sustainable solutions, the Centre helps to stimulate local economic growth, attract investments, and create jobs in the retrofit and renewable energy sectors.

EWI Pro has been an invaluable partner to Exeter College throughout the planning, development, and
construction phases of our new Retrofit Skills Centre. Led by Nick and his team, EWI Pro’s industry expertise and guidance have been instrumental in ensuring that the build aligns with the needs of both current and future students, as well as the existing workforce.

Through seamless collaboration and partnership, EWI Pro has played a pivotal role in promoting the fabric-first approach, utilising donated materials and resources to enrich the knowledge, understanding, and skills of the insulation sector. Their contribution has been integral to the design and implementation of the UK’s inaugural competency-based training program for existing installers of External Wall Insulation, setting a precedent for the industry.

Thanks to the concerted efforts of EWI Pro and Exeter College, students, staff, and the broader local workforce now have access to essential skills-based training in renewable technologies, along with the opportunity to attain industry-recognised accreditations. This initiative not only enhances career prospects but also elevates the insulation sector, paving the way for a more sustainable future and reinforcing the significance of the South West’s first Retrofit Skills Centre.

Luke Moss, Exeter Future Skills Centre
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