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Explore a snap shot of the Optimised Retrofit Programme in Wales.

First published:
3 April 2023
Last updated:
Decarbonising Homes programme

One of the biggest challenges in the climate change emergency is the decarbonisation of our homes.

Through its Optimised RetroFit Programme (ORP), Welsh Government has embarked on a significant programme of investment to make energy efficient improvements and install renewable energy in Wales’ social housing, working with registered social landlords and local authorities.

Launched in 2020, the programme has already financially supported registered social landlords and stock holding local authorities in their retrofitting of more than 7,000 homes via measures such as insulation, ventilation and now cooling alongside fossil free heating and energy storage systems. 

And while the primary aim of the programme is to contribute to Welsh Government’s ambitions to reach net zero, it will also create new jobs, helping build a new green economy for Wales.

Wyn Prichard chairs the ORP Skills & Advisory group which has worked to support the programme by shaping net zero training provision. He says:

“It’s exciting because what we’re seeing is a new, renewable net zero sector being developed that has the potential to create thousands of local jobs. It encompasses building and engineering services, manufacturing, robotics, automation, and smart homes. The job opportunities are vast and diverse. The challenge is how we make sure these opportunities are supported by skills and training frameworks.”

The Skills & Advisory group has brought together a community of net zero experts from across the UK including a number of trade associations. It developed the UK’s first net zero skills matrix and has established a skills framework.

Wyn explains:

“We mapped out what skills are needed, what training is required, where the gaps are and how we fill them. New training frameworks have been established and new career paths have opened up. It means that if someone wants a career in renewable, heat technology, for example, the training pathway is now available.”

Welsh Apprenticeship schemes are already up and running to support the transition to net zero and to accelerate careers, while Personal Learning Accounts – free, flexible courses and qualifications, fully-funded by Welsh Government, offer the opportunity to progress or change careers. And to encourage uptake in key sectors, the eligibility salary cap has been removed for construction, engineering and manufacturing courses.

With the demand for net zero homes only set to grow, there is a need to attract many more young people into the sector. From design, manufacturing, logistics and installing, there are highly skilled career opportunities across multiple areas. Meanwhile, skilled workers considering retirement, plasterers, plumbers and electricians, will be encouraged to stay on and train new recruits.

“Of course, these aren’t static skills and, as new technologies emerge, skills will constantly need to evolve. We don’t even know yet what some of the jobs of the future will look like. Lots of new technologies will be adopted and will require specialist training. That’s why it’s so important that we work with trade associations and other organisations so that we can quickly adapt and promptly put the training in place.”

Tom Boome is Head of Technical, Innovation and Climate at Clwyd Alyn, a registered social landlord that operates across north Wales. He explains that their supply chain is constantly diversifying:

“We’re seeing SMEs within our supply chain with the appetite to retrain and reskill to meet demand. We’re seeing SMEs that were previously focussed on traditional trades now qualified to fit wall installation, solar panels, battery storage and heat pumps. We now have a firm that is eager to train up in the installation of electric infra-red wallpaper to heat homes. The funding from ORP allows us as a registered social landlord to look forward and invest in skills.”

But another challenge, according to Wyn, is how the sector develops consumer confidence:

"It’s absolutely crucial that we build credibility and competence in the delivery of net zero solutions in the home. If we are to achieve decarbonisation beyond social housing, homeowners need to have the confidence to invest. It’s a big challenge but quality assurance schemes help to give the wider public the reassurance that work will be carried out to a high standard. That’s why the Optimised Retrofit Programme encourages Welsh businesses to achieve accreditation for their services from organisations such as Trustmark."

And it is this focus on building competency that will be key to massive growth in the new renewable, net zero sector and the creation of jobs across Wales:

“We can’t afford to get this wrong. That’s why, in Wales, we’ve taken an approach that is consumer focussed as well as skills focussed. It’s really important that we look at the bigger picture from the buyer’s point of view. It’s this approach that has been praised by several trade bodies who say that Wales is most certainly leading the way.”

For more information on the Optimised RetroFit Programme and how Wales can work together to devise innovative net zero solutions, visit Optimised RetroFit Programme | GOV.WALES.