Skip to main content

Delivering upskilling opportunities and retrofit awareness.

First published:
7 March 2023
Last updated:

Coleg Sir Gâr and Coleg Ceredigion are future-proofing our workforce, providing skills that are contributing to a greener, cleaner Wales.

Having established a Green Skills Academy in 2021, the college has already trained 550 people in practical skills such as installing solar PV, heat pumps, solar thermal hot water and electrical vehicle charging points. And now it has launched an Introduction to Retrofit course to help 'demystify' retrofit for the construction industry.

Jemma Parsons is the college’s PLA Project Manager. She is tasked with responding to the needs of individuals and employers in the area and to ensure the college is contributing to the delivery of the regional skills plan objectives:

We work with local authorities, social housing organisations, private contractors and individuals. Overwhelmingly, we’re being told that we need more people with a basic understanding of the changes that are occurring. Yes, we need people that can undertake retrofit, energy efficient improvements of older buildings and new installations but we also need to teach people why we need to do this before we teach the practical skills.

 We have an industry expert teaching the Introduction to Retrofit course and we’re also asking local and national employers to input their experience. This course is designed to help anyone involved with building whether they are surveyors, architects, electricians, plumbers, project managers or housing officers that oversee a retrofit. It will help them understand how the new PAS standards apply to them. It helps with the wider culture change that is required.

The college also offers a Level 2 Award in Domestic Retrofit and a Level 3 Award in Energy Efficiency in Traditional and Older Buildings, a vital education given that a large proportion of housing in West Wales was built before 1919. They also have plans to deliver Retrofit and Energy Assessor qualifications.

These courses are all available as part of the Welsh Government’s Personal Learning Accounts programme (PLAs)which is ensuring that fully-funded, flexible courses and qualifications are available so that people can train around existing responsibilities in order to progress in a current job or change careers altogether.

And to support Wales’ transition to net zero, the eligibility salary cap has been removed for those upskilling or reskilling in the sectors of construction, engineering and manufacturing - thanks to an additional investment of £2 million into green PLAs by Welsh Government.

A great example of how the college has used PLA funding from the Welsh Government is in its training of local suppliers in IMI Electric/Hybrid Vehicle system repair, replacement and servicing:

The current automotive workforce is trained in the maintenance and repair of the traditional combustion engine. In 2021, we used PLA funding to upskill 270 individuals. The training resulted in many individuals gaining promotions and finding more permanent employment. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without PLA funding,

And for some time, electrical car charging points were being installed by firms from outside of the region. We want to make sure we can impact on that supply chain and train local people to do local jobs which of course not only helps the region’s prosperity but it requires less travelling so is therefore greener.

Next on the agenda for Coleg Sir Gar and Coleg Ceredigion is the development of training to help the general population understand their properties:

As we move towards a greener way of life, businesses, homeowners and tenants, both private and social housing, need a better understanding of how to correctly and effectively use the modern technology installed in their properties. We plan to extend our training to a wider audience so everyone is working towards the net zero agenda. It’s all well and good installing technologies but it’s important that they are used effectively to avoid issues in the future.

The colleges are clearly making a significant contribution but establishing the Green Academy hasn’t been without its challenges:

Last year, we did find it difficult at points to get individuals signed up for the training. For tradespeople and employers alike, ‘time out’ of their business can be challenging. We need to share the message that the previous wage cap on PLAs has been removed on courses, approved under the Green PLA element, that will help Wales achieve net zero. It means that individuals can access fully-funded training at no cost to themselves.

And many people still don’t realise that this sort of training is available at their local college across a wide geographic area and delivered with our industry partners. We are here and we can help.

We are keen to engage with sole traders as this funding could be the catalyst to taking their business forward, complying with new PAS standards and delivering what customers want. Getting involved now will help ensure businesses have the right skills to deal with customer demand in the future,

Ron Skinner and Sons, Wales’ largest used car supermarket, has been keen to access qualifications. Lee Farrer, Operations Manager, says:

A number of our technicians have completed and passed the IMI Electric/Hybrid Vehicle system repair, replacement and servicing qualifications. It’s really important that we have highly trained technicians in this area of the motor industry. It’s benefiting our business and our customer base.

We have also been able to offer full time employment for those individuals who undertook the courses.

Meanwhile, Tai Tarian, a social landlord with 9000 properties across Neath Port Talbot County Borough, has also worked closely with the college. Organisational Development and Learning Manager, Kelly Mordecai explains:

It is an absolute pleasure to partner with Coleg Sir Gar and jointly work on our key decarbonisation and environmental agenda. This will not only help us to achieve our goal to become carbon neutral by 2030, but also support our mission to embrace sustainability as part of our wider corporate plan.

Coleg Sir Gar is supporting Tai Tarian by providing a large number of our employees with the essential skills, awareness and accredited training that is needed to help us make great progress in our programme of works with regard to energy efficiency and domestic retrofit.